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Plenty in reserve

June 01, 1999

SunsBy BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




In the time it takes an umpire to raise his thumb, Jeff Maloney went from chillin' to thrillin'.

And the course of one dispute, 20 minutes and a well-thought out swing of the bat, Maloney went from innocent bystander to accidental hero.

[cont. from sports page]

Maloney entered the game after the third-inning ejection of Tyler Thompson and took advantage of the unplanned opportunity by slamming a three-run home run over the right field wall in the fifth on Tuesday to lift the Hagerstown Suns to a 5-2 victory over the Delmarva Shorebirds.

"It's about time," Maloney said. "I didn't even expect to get into this game."

The win lifts Hagerstown's league-leading record to 36-17 and reduces the magic number for clinching the Northern Division championship to 11.

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Thompson was ejected at the end of the third inning after disputing a called third strike by umpire Chad Fairchild. Suddenly, Maloney was playing right field and batting cleanup, not the usual position for someone with a .183 batting average.

"When you're in the dugout, you have to be prepared for anything that might happen," Maloney said. "I tried to stay focused because you don't know when someone might get hurt ... or in this case, ejected."

"So if you were prepared, tell him why you didn't have your bat," said Jesse Zepeda, who was eavesdropping.

"I had two of my bats, but I needed my gamer," Maloney said. "I had the bats to hit right handed. I had to get the one I like to use when I hit left handed."

Felipe Lopez reached on a fielder's choice for the second out in the fifth against Delmarva's Sonny Garcia (0-3). After Jay Gibbons followed with a single, Maloney had two strikes against him but turned on the inside fastball to launch his sixth homer and break a 2-2 tie.

"Batting in the cleanup slot, I saw better pitches," Maloney said. "With two strikes, I was looking for something away, but he came inside and I turned on it. I saw a fastball. He wasn't trying to pitch around me."

It got the Suns more than enough for the victory as Pasqual Coco (8-1) went seven innings followed by Eric Place and Jarrod Kingrey, who got his 10th save.

"That was the biggest at-bat of the game," Suns manager Rolando Pino said. "A two-strike, three-run home run ... you can't ask for that. All the guys have bee contributing in their own way. Jeff came up and hit a bomb."

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