Suns set sights on playoffs

August 31, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

Marty Pevey doesn't usually see eye to eye with defeat.

The Hagerstown Suns manager would put up a fight against losing weight just because it means giving something away.

Yet Pevey was able to smile Sunday after the Suns dropped a 10-6 decision to the Delmarva Shorebirds in the South Atlantic League's regular-season finale before 1,770 fans at Municipal Stadium.

That's because the Suns may have actually won by losing.

The Suns lost the chance to tie for the Northern Division's second-half title and a sweep of the divisional crowns. But more importantly, by finishing two games behind Delmarva, Hagerstown (37-34, 81-60 overall) eliminated the need for a one-game playoff in Delmarva to determine the second-half championship and the opening-round pairings in the SAL's wacky, free-form playoff system.

"I'm not going to say I'm entirely sorry we lost this one," Pevey said with a grin. "If we had won, it still would have been dependent on what Cape Fear did (Sunday night). The loss takes us out of any extra game. There was only a 20 percent chance that we were going to play Cape Fear instead of Delmarva.


"Now lets strap it on. I'm ready to play (the playoffs)."

Despite the loss, Hagerstown - which finished with the second-best overall record in the league - will make its first playoff appearance in three years tonight at Delmarva. The Suns advanced by virtue of their first-half championship, and Sunday's loss also makes sure that appearance isn't a meaningless day later than originally scheduled.

The Suns have had their ticket punched for the postseason since June 14 but didn't know their destination until 5 p.m. Sunday, when former South Hagerstown standout Derek Brown struck out the side to seal the Shorebirds' victory.

That's because the South Atlantic League's playoff system is as about as clear as the inside of a well-shaken snow globe. The murky makeup of the eight-team setup fails to give any team that wins the first-half title or both halves any advantage.

A Suns victory on Sunday would have forced a one-game playoff for the second-half title, which would have been played on the road because the Suns lost a coin toss. Even with that, Cape Fear's finale with Charleston (W.Va.) determined whether the Suns were playing for grand prizes or door prizes.

Since Cape Fear won 8-4, the playoff would have determined if Hagerstown would face the Crocs or the Shorebirds in the first round. If the Suns would have won the extra game, their reward would have been an overnight bus ride from Salisbury, Md., to Fayetteville, N.C., for the first game of the best-of-3 playoff series before returning home for the last two games.

A loss in the hypothetical extra game would have left the Suns where they were - in Delmarva to face the Shorebirds in round one - but starting on Tuesday.

The extra game would have been scheduled even if the Suns had won and Cape Fear lost. Although Delmarva had little to gain by winning the second half outright and both teams had the option to forfeit, the Shorebirds were considering using the extra game to give some players and injuries an extra day's rest.

So no one can blame the Suns for being happy with a loss now.

"This is the best possible way," Pevey said. "We are going to make the shortest trip we have in the league for one day and be right back here. And now I don't have to make (tonight's starting pitcher) John Sneed sit around for another day. Let's get to it."

But even with defeat as the best option, the Suns didn't exactly go down without a fight. Hagerstown came from behind to forge a tie three times before Frankie Figueroa's three-run homer off reliever Matt Weimer ignited a four-run ninth for the victory.

The Suns battled gamely to tie the game with three runs in the first, when Tony Peters' leadoff triple was followed by Mike Young's two-run homer. A Chris Hayes solo shot in the sixth helped the Suns come back from a 5-3 deficit and Mike Young's second homer of the game knotted the score at 6-6 in the eighth.

The Suns finally ran out of gas in the ninth when reliever Jarrod Kingery (0-1), who joined the Suns before game time, allowed a leadoff single to Darnell McDonald before throwing away a pickoff attempt.

"Jarrod did great ... he just got his spikes caught when he was making his move," Pevey said. "We're not going out there to lay down for anyone ... especially now, because we are playing for a ring."

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