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Heath puts Crocs in no-win zone

July 28, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

Woody Heath was so good Monday night, he was in two zones.

The strike zone and his comfort zone. And that meant Cape Fear was relegated to the Twilight Zone.

Heath shut down the top hitting team in the South Atlantic League with seven innings of five-hit pitching as the Suns used a combination of creativity and power to notch a 4-1 South Atlantic League victory over the Crocs.

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Heath (7-2) got a handle on Cape Fear's hitters early by striking out Nate James and Scott Zech to start the game. From there, it was relatively smooth sailing.

"Being comfortable was the best thing that happened for me today," Heath said. "I've been working as a starter and a reliever, so I haven't been able to stretch out. Today, I was able to get the first strike, and I just went after them."

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Heath got his first pitch over for a strike for 22 of the 25 Cape Fear batters he faced. He allowed five singles and one walk while striking out seven. Cape Fear entered the game with a .278 team batting average, which tied the Crocs with Capital City atop the SAL, 10 points better than the rest of the league.

"He did an outstanding job today, but so did (relievers Matt) Weimer and (Jaron) Seabury," Suns manager Marty Pevey said. "Woody had been getting good velocity on his pitches, and when you get 22 first-pitch strikes, you can do a lot of things when you're ahead in the count."

The win was a critical step for Hagerstown (15-23, 59-49 overall) if it plans to get back in the Northern Division's second-half race. The third-place Suns moved to within five games of the division-leading Crocs (20-18, 63-45 overall) with three games remaining in the series. Cape Fear owns a 14-5 record against Hagerstown.

"They have just beat the heck out of us this year," Pevey said. "That's the bottom line. Anytime we beat them, we have to be happy."

Hagerstown jumped out to a 2-0 lead against starter Bryan Hebson (2-4) in the second inning by using patience, fundamentals and one hit.

Chris Hayes and Mike Young each drew leadoff walks and moved up on Josh Phelps' sacrifice bunt. Hayes scored on Cesar Izturis' grounder, and Tony Peters' ripped an RBI single up the middle to give Heath a two-run advantage.

Cape Fear barely touched Heath until the sixth. Kevin Hook led off with a single before moving around the bases on James' sacrifice bunt and Zech's single. Hook scored when Heath uncorked a wild pitch.

"This was the second time I faced these guys, but the first time it was two innings and out," Heath said. "But we have played them so many times, I knew what to throw them because I've seen each one of them bat against us 50 times."

The Suns capped the scoring in the sixth when Hayes greeted reliever Jeremy Salyers with a leadoff homer over the center field wall, his fourth. Two batters later, Phelps crushed his eighth home run of the season, a screaming shot down the left-field line.

Weimer and Seabury each retired the Crocs in order in the final two innings. Seabury earned his 14th save.

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