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Suns lock and load for run at SAL title

September 03, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

To Hagerstown Suns manager Marty Pevey, the playoffs are like going into a gunfight.

Never go into battle unless you're well armed.

In that case, Pevey and the Suns made the OK Corral look like a tea party during the South Atlantic League quarterfinals against Delmarva. Pevey had his big guns cocked and loaded.

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From the right hand, he fired John Sneed, 16-2 in the regular season with a franchise-record 210 strikeouts and a 2.56 earned run average.

From the left hand, there was Clayton Andrews, the league's co-leader with a 2.28 ERA along with a 10-7 record and 192 strikeouts.

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And the two SAL post-season All-Stars gunned down the defending South Atlantic League champions in a two-game sweep, capped by Andrews' 4-0 gem on Tuesday.

"If we got what we got out of Sneed and Andrews during he regular season and scored a couple of runs, we were going to win," Pevey said after wrapping up the series on Tuesday. "That was the only way to play it."

The Suns pitching staff should be known as Lethal Weapon 12 after the 1998 season. The 12 arms, keyed by a top-notch, five-man starting rotation, combined for a league-best 3.25 ERA, tops by nearly one-quarter of a run per game. They allowed the least hits and home runs while collecting the most shutouts.

"I think we are in a great situation for the playoffs," Pevey said. "Everyone can pitch and we have so many options."

The options were few for Delmarva in the quarterfinals. Suns pitchers allowed one run on 15 hits - all singles - in the two games. They shut out Delmarva for the final 14 innings of the series.

Andrews and Sneed combined to allow one earned run on 14 hits while walking two and striking out 19 in 15 innings, a 0.60 ERA. Closer Jaron Seabury and recent addition Jarrod Kingery pitched the other three innings, allowing one hit while each collecting a save.

"They have both grown up as pitchers," Suns pitching coach Hector Berrios said. "Earlier in the year, they were more worried about strikeouts. Now, they are worried about pitching and winning."

But now, the pitching will be turned over to the rest of the staff until Sneed and Andrews get their regular, four full days of rest.

The Suns had Wednesday off because two quarterfinal series started a day late because of a second-half championship playoff game.

Hagerstown plays at Capital City tonight in the first game of the semifinals. The Bombers beat Piedmont 3-2 to advance.

Greensboro plays at Augusta in the other semifinal.

Pevey will hand game one's ball to Woody Heath, Hagerstown's part-time starter who finished with an 11-3 record. The plan is to let the right-hander go as long and as far as he can.

"We're going to work Heath and (Leo) Estrella in a tandem," Pevey said. "If Woody works nine innings, we'll go from there. If he works seven, we might use a couple of guys for an inning each. If he goes five, then we'll bring in Estrella."

Pevey will go with either Estrella or Matt McClellan on Friday. The key is to keep Sneed off the mound until Saturday and Andrews until Sunday.

"We can't bring them back on three days rest," Pevey said. "It's the playoffs, but we're not going to jeopardize their careers."

That's a lot easier for Pevey to say when he's standing in front of an armload of heavy artillery.

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