Justin Laley became familiar with Canal Park as a young baseball fan.
Tuesday night, he was playing in the finale of the Northeast Ohio Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Series after recently graduating from Twinsburg High School.
Laley made the most of his opportunity by hitting a triple that brought in two runs, drawing a walk, stealing a base and scoring a run to help the Summit County Orange Stars to an 8-1 win over the Summit County Vegas Gold Stars.
"When I was younger, I used to come see the Aeros play," Laley said. "The Boy Scouts actually had a sleepover night where we got to sleep in the outfield. It was pretty cool."
Nowadays, the RubberDucks call Canal Park home, and on this evening the venue hosted Laley and several other top players from Summit County.
"It was awesome hitting in the tunnels, going through the hallway, coming up the stairs and going out on the field to play," Laley said.
Stow’s Kaleb Poston started on the mound and pitched three shutout innings for the Summit County Orange Stars. Tallmadge’s Jake Reifsnyder followed with two innings and allowed one run, and Kent Roosevelt’s Zane Cramer contributed two scoreless innings.
"I just came ready to play wherever they wanted to put me," Poston said. "The coaches decided to start me, so it worked out. It was amazing being out here on the RubberDucks field. I couldn’t have asked for a better night. It was beautiful.
"I have been coming to games here since I was like 3 or 4."
Poston said his fastball and curveball were his primary pitches on Tuesday. Reifsnyder relied on his fastball, curveball and cutter.
"It was fun being out here with all of these guys tonight," Reifsnyder said.
Cramer enjoyed playing on a squad that was coached by Kent Roosevelt’s Mike Haney, Ron Spears and Jesse Michel, and Revere’s Jason Cottrell and Steve Wido.
"I threw a few innings yesterday for my summer team, and then today, my fastball was working and a couple of my curveballs worked too," Cramer said. "I didn’t really throw a change-up. I relied on my defense and they made plays."
Laley’s triple to right-center field in the bottom of the third inning scored Tallmadge’s Rich Eyre and Stow’s Colin Harris to give the Summit County Orange Stars a 2-0 lead.
"It was nice to get that hit because I had been in a slump recently," Laley said. "I didn’t see how far the ball went because I kept my head down and started running."
A four-run bottom of the fourth gave the Summit County Orange Stars a 6-0 advantage. The inning featured singles by Revere’s Matt Buser, St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Garrett Bischof, Twinsburg’s Dylan Jackson, Walsh Jesuit’s Yassir Kahook and Kent Roosevelt teammates Nate Ritchey and Cramer.
Jackson’s single scored Buser, Kahook’s single brought in Reifsnyder and Ritchey’s single scored Jackson and Kahook.
"It was fun playing with good baseball players tonight," Jackson said.
The Summit County Vegas Gold Stars cut their deficit to 6-1 in the top of the fifth with a single by Nordonia’s Joey DeRusso that scored Mack Timbrook of Archbishop Hoban.
The Summit County Orange Stars countered with two more runs to make it 8-1. Bischof singled in Laley in the sixth, and Green’s Matthew Amison singled and scored on an error in the seventh.
"It was cool to play against people in the area that you read about during the season," Amison said. "It was also cool to come out and play at Canal Park."