Suns notes - Suns harken back to good old days

July 26, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

The Hagerstown Suns found out that the state of North Carolina has a lost and found department.

About a month ago, the Suns hit Hickory, N.C., with the Northern Division title in their back pocket after playing their best baseball during the last three weeks of of the first half.

They took three of four games from the Crawdads, but on the way out of town, the Suns left their game somewhere in the Tar Heel State.

Hagerstown finally retraced its tracks last weekend in Asheville, N.C., during the middle leg of the latest road trip.

Suddenly, the Suns may be the Suns again.

"Ever since Asheville, we are pumped up," Suns catcher Bobby Cripps said. "We weren't doing that well, but we were sitting about the clubhouse talking about it. We didn't want to look like we were blowing off the second half because we knew we were in the playoffs already. We want to go in with a great record to show how good we really are."


The Suns are starting to show a little life again. Their record still leaves something to be desired at 13-22 after a 5-3 stretch.

The proof comes in the recent swing of offense. In the eight games preceeding the trip to Asheville - two with Charleston (W.Va.), four with Delmarva and two at Cape Fear - Hagerstown's offense managed a .219 batting average.

Even with the anemic offense, the Suns managed to win five of six home games in that stretch, thanks mostly to a 0.91 earned run average by Hagerstown's starting pitching.

With the help of a couple of shifts in the batting order, the Suns took Asheville by storm. Hagerstown was 53-for-159 (.333) in a four-game split with the Tourists. The Suns are 88-for-290 in the last eight games (.303), which includes at least 10 hits in six of the games.

"We started coming out and hitting the ball and having fun," Cripps said.

Hagerstown reaquainted its fans with the old Suns during Thursday's 7-2 win over Capital City. Seven of the Suns' 10 hits were for extra bases: two home runs, a triple and four doubles.

"It was one of those games. That was the team that we had out there during the first half," said Suns catcher Bobby Cripps. "We were all contributing in our own ways. Someone makes a mistake, he'd come back and get a hit to make up for it. Someone missed an opportunity, someone else came on and picked him up. That's what it's all about."

Young: Not restless

Mike Young has been experiencing a number of ups and downs in the last month.

When the Hagerstown Suns' second baseman was batting at the top of the order, his average started to sink. So it meant the best way to head upward was to drop a couple of rungs in the Suns batting order.

It hasn't been this easy, but Young dropped from second to seventh in Hagerstown lineup and leaped up 11 points in batting average.

"It's a little bit of a coincidence that it's all happening now," Young said. "But if it helps, I want to stay seventh if I keep hitting well."

Young was dropped five slots on July 17 in Asheville, N.C., and responded by going 1-for-3 - a two-run home run - in a 10-2 win over the Tourists.

Since the move, Young has gone 11-for-36 (through Friday) with four doubles, three home runs and 11 RBIs. His average jumped from .255 to .266 in the span.

The move has taken away the pressure of moving runners from Young, a priority as a No. 2 hitter, while giving him the opportunity to take legitimate cuts at the plate.

If his recent numbers weren't enough proof, Young was named South Atlantic League player of the week for July 17-23, for hitting .478 with four doubles, three home runs and 11 RBIs. He had a slugging percentage of 1.043.

"It seems like the deeper I got in the order, the more RBI opportunities I got," Young said. "There were more guys on base to drive in."

Although the change in batting order altitude seemed to have helped Young, he's convinced that it all happened at the end of a long struggle and a lot of extra work to battle out of a prolonged slump.

"I made a few mechanical adjustments in my swing," Young said. "When things were going bad, I just kept going in and battling to fix what was wrong ... It just took longer to fix than I would have liked."

Young realized he was dropping his hands before swinging the bat, causing him to pull off the ball and hit many of his balls to third base instead of up the middle of the field. He also became more prone to striking out.

If anything, the prolonged slump was more of a learning experience than a bother for Young.

"It took me time to figure it all out what it takes to get out of a slump," Young said. "I wasn't making solid contact as much as I had been. After going through this, maybe it won't take me as long to end a slump the next time and I can get back to helping the team."

Craving the wave

As a third baseman, Jesse Zepeda is used to seeing "Groundout, 5-3" on a scorecard.

But Wednesday, he got to experience the closest thing to the opening of Hawaii Five-O.

The Suns' players and front office staff took a whitewater raft trip down the Shenandoah River.

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