SALT LAKE CITY — The Pacific Coast League is known as one of the most hitter-friendly leagues in all of baseball, but Wednesday night it was the International League's pitching that brought the heat.
Zach McAllister cruised through the first two innings, striking out two batters and allowing only one hit, then eight other pitchers combined to stifle the PCL lineup in the 2011 Triple-A All-Star Game.
Mike Nagurski and Mark Worrell threw a perfect ninth inning to secure a 3-0 win for the visiting IL team.
"I'll be honest with you, I expected to see a lot more offense than we did tonight," IL manager Mike Sarbaugh said. "The pitching staff did a great job, starting with Zach and going down the list. It was a well-played game."
In a game where hits came at a premium, it was the first of the contest — a three-run homer to right-center by Durham's Russ Canzler — that doubled as the game-winner. An error by Salt Lake's Jeff Baisley to open the second inning allowed Dayan Viciedo to reach safely, then Matt Hague walked before Canzler went deep.
"I was a little nervous to start the game, but I just tried to remind myself to stay aggressive," Canzler said. "We came here to have fun and play hard, and I was fortunate to get a good pitch to hit."
Canzler was recognized as the IL's Top Star after the game.
"It was a great experience," Canzler said. "This is my first time out here, and I definitely enjoyed the city. The atmosphere during the game was great. I was honored to be here."
While many PCL players struggled — the team, after all, managed only three hits — the local favorites had an especially tough night. Besides committing a costly error, Baisley went 0-for-2 with a strikeout at the plate. Teammate Gil Velazquez, who replaced Baisley at third base in the fifth inning, also went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.
"The fans were great, just like they've been all season," Baisley said. "It's fun to play in a game like this in front of your home fans. Obviously I would have liked to play a little better, but what can you do?"
One bright spot for the PCL side was its pitching, which held the IL to only six hits and zero earned runs. At one point, the PCL staff retired 16 straight IL batters.
"You look at the numbers on both teams and you see a whole bunch of home runs, RBIs and hits," PCL manager Lorenzo Bundy said. "And all of the sudden you get three unearned runs combined by both teams, so obviously the all-star pitching took over tonight."
The PCL's best scoring chance came in the bottom of the seventh inning, when they loaded the bases — on three walks, no less — with two outs. Rochester's Chuck James, though, squelched the rally by striking out Reno's Tony Abreu to end the inning.
Las Vegas' David Cooper went 1-for-1 with a walk and was named the PCL's Top Star.
Former Cyprus High and College of Eastern Utah standout Willie Eyre came in to record the final out for the PCL in the top of the ninth inning. Eyre entered with a runner on third base and proceeded to strike out Matt Antonelli on seven pitches.
"That was exciting, being able to come in and get that out," Eyre said. "There were a lot of people I hadn't seen in a long time who came to see me play. The whole week was a lot of fun."