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Suns bounce 'Birds

September 02, 1998

Suns beat DelmarvaBy BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




It wasn't an out-of-body experience, but for Clayton Andrews and Josh Phelps it might have been the next best thing.

There was something supernatural for the pair on Tuesday. They slayed a few dragons. Put some ghosts to rest. Defied demons. And, oh yeah, they were instrumental in burying the Shorebirds.

Andrews fired seven innings of six-hit pitching, and Phelps drove home the key run with a two-out, bad-hop single in the sixth to lead the Hagerstown Suns to a 4-0 victory over the Delmarva Shorebirds to capture their South Atlantic League best-of-3 quarterfinal playoff series in a two-game sweep.

Andrews and Phelps are two holdovers from the 1997 Suns, who were dominated by Delmarva last year. The Shorebirds won 18 of 26 games over Hagerstown last season, keeping the Suns out of the playoffs while moving to the South Atlantic League title.

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"It feels pretty good to get the last laugh on them," Phelps said.

Suns fans did everything short of rain dances to break "The Jinx," most of the time to no avail. The Suns took care of it with overpowering pitching and timely hitting to earn the right to advance to the semifinals against a yet-to-be determined opponent, extending Hagerstown's first playoff appearance in three years.

"They're over there with their chants and yells," Andrews said, looking back at the field. "They expected to come in here and whoop up on us. They beat us pretty bad last year. But it feels pretty good to beat them and send them home."

And the Suns did it in convincing fashion for the second straight night on the heels of a 2-1 masterpiece by John Sneed on Monday.

Andrews scattered six singles - only two coming after the second inning - while striking out 10 as Hagerstown pitching held Delmarva scoreless for the final 14 innings of the series. The Shorebirds threatened in each of the first two innings, only to be snuffed out.

"Andrews threw the heck out of the ball," Suns manager Marty Pevey said. "They got a bunt hit and a couple of bloopers off of him early, but he just went out and did what he has done for the entire year."

That was keep the Suns in the game. Andrews tied for the league-lead with a 2.28 earned run average in the regular season while going 10-7 with 193 strikeouts. The right-hander took total control of the game in the third inning, retiring 15 of the last 19 hitters he faced.

"I was battling a cold, and I felt sick as a dog," Andrews said. "I just went out there and took it all one pitch at a time. They got a couple of flare hits, but I knew it was going to be a big blowout. It was a tough game until the (sixth)."

Hagerstown took a 1-0 lead in the second against Delmarva ace, left-hander Matt Riley, who entered the game with a 1.19 ERA. Vernon Wells ripped a one-out double off the right-field wall and scored when Greg Morrison, the only left-handed hitter in the Suns' lineup, hit a single up the middle off a 1-2 pitch.

It remained a pitchers' duel until the sixth when Wells bounced a one-out single to left and stole second base. Then, with two outs and a 1-2 count, Phelps hit a grounder down the first-base line that hopped off Franky Figueroa's glove for the RBI single.

"When I got down in the count, I just wanted to put the ball in play," Phelps said. "He got a curve up, and I got the bat on the ball and got a break."

Hagerstown put the game away in the eighth as designated hitter Mike Strange greeted reliever Carlos Medina with a solo homer to right to drain all emotion out of Delmarva.

"It was big when they took out Riley,'' Strange said. "He was pumping his team up the way he had been pitching, and he was their best. We've seen Medina plenty of times, and he likes his fastball. I just sat on it.''

Tony Peters walked and eventually scored on Chris Hayes' two-out single for the final run.

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