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Suns hit road looking for first-half form

July 03, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

The Hagerstown Suns hit the road for Kannapolis, N.C., on Thursday night.

The bus may make a stop in Hickory along the way. That was the last place the Suns saw their 'A' game.

Hagerstown's free fall without a visible parachute continued as the Greensboro Bats once again took advantage of a couple of Suns fundamental mistakes for a 4-3 victory and sweep a four-game set at Municipal Stadium.

"This was a series between the two best pitching teams in the league," Suns manager Marty Pevey said. "They threw up some numbers. We threw up some numbers. Neither one of us hit the ball that well. They just hit the ball a little more than we did and they made fewer mistakes."

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The Bats (12-3) only outscored the Suns 12-7 in the four-game set in a series that showcased the top two pitching teams separated by .11 in earned run averages. Greensboro took three one-run games and a two-run decision to sweep Hagerstown.

In all, the Suns (4-11) have lost 10 of their last 11 games, including six of seven in the homestand. Hagerstown was the king of its Municipal Stadium castle in the first half, since the Suns won 29 of their 35 home games en route to the South Atlantic League first half title.

"Losing at home is bad enough, but what bothers me more is getting beat by one run," Pevey said. "You just have to win those games."

And it's not that the Suns' pitching didn't give the offense every chance.

Isabel Giron (7-8) became dominant after allowing Alan Butler's three-run home run in the first inning, keeping the Suns in position to win. The right-hander struck out 10, including the last six he faced before giving way to Colin Brackeen, who struck out the first four Bats he challenged.

In all, Suns pitching struck out 10 straight batters and 12 of the last 17 hitters they faced. Hagerstown crawled to within 3-2 heading into the ninth when the fundamental bottom fell out.

With one out, reliever Brian Bowles coaxed Brian Aylor to sky a fly into short left field. Outfielder Chris Hayes was charged with a two-base error after the ball ticked off his glove when neither he nor shortstop Cesar Izturis took charge of the play. Rene Pinto lined a triple over Hayes to plate the all-important insurance run.

"The bottom line is you have to communicate in the outfield," Pevey said. "You'll give up runs, but you have to take outs when they give them to you."

The Suns got a run in the fourth on Greg Morrison's 10th homer of the season and cut the deficit to one on two-out singles by Lorenzo Bagley in the fifth and ninth innings.

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