SALEM, Va. – (via Salem Red Sox media) Tie score showdowns, last-second heroics and shattered lights were just some of the amazing moments at Haley Toyota Field Monday night at the 2017 Carolina League Hitting Challenge, presented by Sierra Nevada.
Jake Gatewood of the Carolina Mudcats edged out Sicnarf Loopstok of the Lynchburg Hillcats by a score of 15-14 in the final round, needing the last pitch of regulation time to activate the 30-second bonus before surpassing Loopstok in bonus time to take home the title and a watch from RM Johnson and Sons Jewelers of Salem.
The field featured eight of the finest sluggers the Carolina League has to offer, with Gatewood and Isan Diaz representing the Mudcats, Josh Altmann batting for the Down East Wood Ducks, Eloy Jimenez on behalf of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Loopstok for the Hillcats, Zack Collins of the Winston-Salem Dash, Anderson Miller for the Wilmington Blue Rocks, and Jose Sermo representing the hometown Salem Red Sox.
Loopstok smashed 17 homers in the first round to punch his ticket to the second round, while Sermo only needed three to top Collins. Gatewood outdid Altmann to earn a place in the second round, and Jimenez worked his way past Miller. In the semifinals, Gatewood put on another show, outhomering Jimenez by several, but Jimenez had the highlight of the night, shattering a light in left field with a titanic blast.
Sermo and Loopstok went mano-a-mano in the second round, with Loopstok tying the score twice and forcing extra, tie-breaking swing-offs. Finally, Loopstok outdid Sermo, earning his way to the finals. The night's top two sluggers didn't disappoint; Loopstok belted 14 homers, setting a high bar to clear. But Gatewood was able to earn a 30-second bonus by hitting a homer on his last pitch, and clubbed just enough in extra time to beat Loopstok.
The Hitting Challenge set the stage for what should be a thrilling 2017 All-Star Classic Tuesday night at Haley Toyota Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., and tickets are still available through the Salem Red Sox box office or by ordering online.