Ruben Ruiz spurs East All-Stars to victory

East bests the West for a 10-7 victory in the 63rd Annual Exeter Lions All-Star Baseball Game; Ruiz earns MVP honors after recording two RBIs late in the contest to claim the win

Mount Whitney’s Jordan Versteeg pitches for the West team at the 63rd Annual Exeter Lions All-Star Baseball Game at Valley Strong Ballpark on June 29. (Kason Clark)
Kason Clark
Published July 2, 2024  • 
11:00 am

VISALIA – When the best of the best face off, it takes a special talent to stand out. And that’s what Exeter’s Ruben Ruiz did in the 63rd Annual Exeter Lions All-Star Baseball Game at Valley Strong Ballpark. 

After Ruiz and the East team raced out to a 7-1 lead to start the game on June 29, the West roared back to tie the contest, 7-7, heading to the bottom of the sixth inning. But the East retook momentum as Ruiz drove in a couple runs down the stretch to give his team the 10-7 win over the West. 

“It’s amazing,” Ruiz said about the win. “It’s just fun and it’s an honor to put on for my town where I come from.”

The East had many great players from across the Central Valley that led them to victory against the West. Players from Tulare Western, Tulare Union, Mission Oak, Porterville, Redwood, Woodlake, Monache, Lindsay and Strathmore made up the winning squad that was coached by Porterville’s Pete Carganilla. 

“It’s pretty neat to see these kids on the squad that I had,” Carganilla said about coaching these all-stars. “I don’t really know a lot of them. I played against them so just to be around them and get to know them, it was a really neat experience.”

“It’s fun,” Redwood’s Cruz Rodriguez said about playing in the all-star game. “You do good in season and then you get the opportunity to play out here with a bunch of new guys that are all selected. So it’s just fun being out there.”

The West all-star squad was made up of players from Central Valley Christian, Mount Whitney, Hanford, Golden West, Lemoore, El Diamante, Coalinga, Sierra Pacific, Farmersville and Dinuba and was coached by Sierra Pacific’s Jonathan Chavez. 

Thanks to their talent, the West took an early lead in the top of the first inning. After getting hit by a pitch to start the contest, El Diamante’s Caleb Silva worked his way to third base and then scored on a passed ball to give his team the lead. 

But the East quickly responded in the bottom of the first. With a runner on, Tulare Western’s Blake Crawford tripled to left field to tie the game. Crawford then scored on a passed ball to give the East a 2-1 lead. 

Later in the second, the East seized momentum to build out the lead. After a single earlier in the inning, Tulare Union’s Adam Sims scored on a West error. Back-to-back walks then loaded the bases for the East, and Rodriguez seized the opportunity with a triple to left to clear the bases and make it a 6-1 advantage. 

“I saw the opportunity and I knew I had to come through,” Rodriguez said about his big hit. “I had to just put the bat on ball and then I just let it happen.”

Rodriguez pushed the lead to 7-1 when he scored on another West error. Despite the deficit, the West did not waver as they looked to fight their way back. In the fourth, CVC’s Bryce Cook singled to drive in a pair of runners for the West. Cook then scored on an East error to cut the deficit to 7-4. 

Later in the fifth, the West continued to march its way back. Golden West’s Chris Garcia got things started with an RBI single to center. Two batters later, Coalinga’s Gustavo Ibarra knocked in another run with a single to center. Dinuba’s Paul Huerta then capped off the inning with an RBI double to knot the game up at 7-7. 

After letting the lead slip away, the East looked to wrangle back momentum late in the contest. In the sixth, Ruiz came through with an RBI single to give the East the lead again. Later in the seventh, Crawford scored thanks to a sacrifice fly from Mission Oak’s Kannon Silva. After losing momentum, Carganilla was impressed with how the East came up clutch. 

“These kids have heart,” Carganilla said. “They just kept playing. I wasn’t surprised by their resilience because they were engaged the whole game.”

In the eighth, Ruiz singled to drive in another run to make it a 10-7 lead for the East. While the West got two runners on in the top of the ninth, the East got the final out to secure the victory. Thanks to his pair of RBIs in the clutch, Ruiz was named the MVP of the contest. 

While it was a fun night for these players, it was the last time many of them will play high school baseball after graduating earlier in the summer. While it was a bittersweet occasion, the East’s seniors were happy to get one last win before heading into the next chapters of their lives. 

“It feels great to go out on a win. Can’t do any better than that,” Ruiz said. “Especially winning the MVP as well, it feels great.”

Kason Clark
Reporter