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Suns notes - Hayes' hit returns things to normalcy

July 12, 1998

Just three weeks ago, the Hagerstown Suns were playing so well, they were looking for a way to bottle their game.

But since the beginning of the second half, the Suns were simply bottled up.

That's when Hagerstown and its fortunes began to go flat. As the Suns lost 14 of 15 games, including a season-high eight straight, it seemed like they were capped by a lid. The pressure to play the perfect game built as losses piled up.

On Thursday, the Suns may have found what they needed to pop the top and Chris Hayes found the release valve.

Hayes slapped a clutch two-out single to right to score Mike Young with the tying run, leading to a 2-1 extra-inning victory over the Charleston Alley Cats. Vernon Wells doubled in the winning run in the eighth.

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"It was great," Suns manager Marty Pevey said. "You could feel the pressure release."

Pit-zit. Everything that had been going wrong seemed to get remarkably better with Hayes' one at-bat. It was hard to tell which was louder, the pressure rushing away or the collective sigh of relief out of the Suns dugout.

Hayes battled Charleston's Brett Haring, fouling off four pitches with two strikes before ripping an ankle-high pitch to right for the RBI.

"It was going to happen sooner or later," Hayes said. "It was just a matter of time before someone on the team did it - me or Mike Young or Vernon or someone ... it was just a matter of time."

Still, it was a matter of perception. With Hayes' hit, everything seemed to get a lot easier for the Suns.

Wells provided the win in the opener both offensively and defensively.

And that only seemed to stoke confidence leading to an offensive onslaught for a 6-1 win in the nightcap and a much needed doubleheader sweep. It was reminiscent of the way Hagerstown played at the end of the first half.

"When Mike (Young) got his double to lead off the sixth, I knew this was our opportunity to tie it up and take the pressure off of ourselves in the seventh," Hayes said. "I wanted to focus and hit the ball hard because that pitcher was working us away all game. I had two strikes, and I was battling. I felt confident and wanted to put the ball in play with authority. When you can do that, good things happen, especially with two outs."

The Suns, suddenly had a different attitude. Gone was the cautious style that came with playing and losing six one-run games during the eight-game streak.

"We may have been playing not to lose," Hayes said. "In the second game, we came out and played to win the game. There weren't any worries. We needed a win badly. Winning released all the tension. Winning solves everything."

But Thursday's sweep doesn't mean the Suns have totally recovered.

"It's too early to tell," Hayes warned. "Come ask me if that hit was the thing that turned things around 10 games from now."

But it was a start.

Small steps




Pevey may the Suns eternal optimist, but he also admits to be a grudging realist.

"You always want to have goals," he said. "You want to win every game, but that's impossible."

Especially after an eight-game losing streak and a 4-15 start to the second half of the season.

Brush off Plan B.

"We have 20 games left in the month. Our goal is now to be two games under .500 by the end of the month," Pevey said.

With Thursday's sweep, the Suns were 6-15 with 21 games left in July. That means Pevey is looking for a 14-7 run to close out the month for a 20-22 mark.

The big test came with this weekend's four-game series with Delmarva, the Suns intrastate menace. The Shorebirds started the Suns on their skid by sweeping a four-game series in Salisbury, Md.

"We have Delmarva coming in and they have played us tough all year," Pevey said. "The swept us in those four games. Now, we'll get a chance to see what we were made of."

Just a glove machine




Wells' line in the first game box score of Thursday's sweep of Charleston was only half the story.

The center fielder was 3-for-4 with a double and a game-winning RBI.

None of that would have mattered if it weren't for his defense.

Wells turned in three superior defensive plays, including a critical game-saving throw in the top of the seventh inning. With runners on first and second base and two outs, Serafin Rodriguez lined a sharp single to center. Ryan Medrano rounded third and tried to score the go-ahead run.

Wells caught the ball on one hop and unloaded his throw to the plate. Catcher Josh Phelps caught the ball in front of the plate and lunged back to make the tag to save the run and, ultimately, the game. Earlier, Wells made two outstanding running catches to keep Hagerstown within striking distance, but they paled compared to the throw.

For Wells, the big throw was just an evening up of his average.

"I haven't had many chances like that," he said. "When I do, I seem to throw it to the right or the left. I was hoping for the chance to get one on the mark.

"When I let it go, I didn't think I had a chance. It seemed to stop and then he was sliding and the tag was there."

Sun spots




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