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Saturday Suns - Getting into a groove

April 14, 2001

Saturday Suns - Getting into a groove



By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

For the second straight night, the Hagerstown Suns looked DOA - dusted off again.

All the Greensboro Bats had to do was pull up the sheet ... it looked over. Over that is, until Kevin Alexander gave the Suns a little jolt.

Alexander unloaded a two-run single to center in the ninth Saturday night to bring the Suns back to life, just enough to make it interesting. In the end, Hagerstown lost 6-4 to Greensboro at Municipal Stadium, but it was still better than it would've, could've or should've been.

"We made a game of it in the ninth," Hagerstown manager Bill Hayes said. "We got the big hit from Alexander and Lunsford did a good job going the other way. It was a positive thing. We got back into the game and showed some life right there at the end."

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It was a big improvement over the first eight innings when the Suns (4-5) could have been called terminal. Like in Friday's 9-1 loss, Hagerstown's starting pitcher lost some of his command in an early inning while the Suns offense went looking for a transfusion. Just like Friday, Angel Chavez rapped a opposite field solo homer for Hagerstown's only run.

Hagerstown starter Kyle Gross allowed two unearned runs in the third and another in the fourth. Gross (0-1) threw 37 of his 60 pitches in his last two innings, getting in trouble with walks and a hit batsman. Only Tommy Winrow's groundout produced an RBI.

Will Malerich didn't fare much better in the fifth, allowing three more runs as Greensboro used a single and two bunts to load the bases. The second, by Casey Baker, had first baseman Deivi Santos charging and firing to third for a forceout, but Chavez failed to touch the bag.

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Winrow walked with the bases loaded, Jason Grove lofted a sacrifice fly and Jason Kinchen singled for the 6-1 lead for winner Eric Schmitt.

"We gave them an extra run in that inning with the bunt," Hayes said. "We got to get an out on that play. If we do, it would have been a 6-5 game in the ninth with a runner on second ..."

The "what if" smacked the Suns in the face in the ninth. After being held to two hits for the first eight innings, Hagerstown found a crack in Greensboro's bullpen.

The Suns got to Jose Gonzalez as Mark Walker drew a one-out walk, followed by Lunsford's opposite-field single and Chavez's RBI double. Gonzalez was lifted for Greensboro closer Reggie LaPlante, who was greeted with Alexander's single up the middle to tighten the game to 6-4.

Tomas Garrido prolonged the rally with a two-out single to right, moving Alexander to second, but Santos popped the first pitch to left to end the game.

"It was a matter of thinking too much," Hayes said of Hagerstown's early hitting drought. "It's just a matter of getting aggressive and hitting. They have to stop thinking. It's just a matter seeing the ball and hitting it."

NOTE - The Suns announced that reliever Elgin Graham was placed on the disabled list Saturday and will be replaced by Mark Hills.

Graham pulled a groin muscle on Friday.

Hills will join the Suns from extended spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz. The left-handed pitcher was 4-3 with a 5.90 ERA in two stints at Salem-Keizer.

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