The Southern California All-Stars had their backs to the wall Sunday night in Game 5 of the I-5 Series at Petco Park. Mark McGwire stepped up and launched two balls over that wall, including the winner in the bottom of the ninth, as SoCal stayed alive in the best-of-seven series with a 9-7 victory over Northern California.
It looked grim for SoCal, down 3-1 in the series and trailing 7-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh. After a shaky first inning, Randy Johnson had settled down and was pitching a gem.
Bobby Bonds walked to lead off the inning. After Jackie Robinson flied to right, George Brett doubled down the first-base line, scoring Bonds, who just beat the throw from Frank Robinson. Ted Williams walked, and with Dave Righetti and John Wetteland throwing in the bullpen, the NorCal manager elected to leave Johnson in the game to face McGwire. With a 2-1 count, McGwire tripled off the top of the right-field fence, and when the ball took a bad hop and kicked away from Robinson, McGwire made it a 7-6 game. Righetti came in to face Christian Yelich, who singled in McGwire.
Meanwhile, Bob Lemon was having little trouble with the NorCal lineup. After relieving Bret Saberhagen to start the fourth, he allowed one run and one hit over 4 2/3 innings before giving way to Rollie Fingers, who got four outs to send the game to the bottom of the ninth.
Righetti, who had already made 42 pitches, was left in for the bottom of the ninth. He struck out Brett, walked Williams, then faced McGwire. One pitch. Gone. Game over. They are probably still making noise at Petco Park. Game 6 awaits. Lefty Gomez for NorCal against Bert Blyleven.
The I-5 Series is played on the APBA game engine. The 34-man rosters were chosen by fans via latimes.com/sports and sfchronicle.com/sports. More than 100,000 votes were cast. The NorCal team was managed by Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle and the SoCal team by Houston Mitchell of The Times.
Game 6 will be played at the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday and Game 7, if needed, at Oracle Park on Monday.