Suns go mental in 9-1 loss to Legends

May 17, 2001

Suns go mental in 9-1 loss to Legends



Lexington Legends

Anthony Pluta (3-1, 2.75)

at Hagerstown Suns

John Thomas (0-2, 2.16)

Promotion: Reduced-price drinks throughout the park

Time: 7

Radio: WHAG 1410

Bill Hayes will be the first to tell you that there are definite measurements in baseball. For example, the mound is 60 feet, 6 inches from the plate and the bases are 90 feet apart.


The one calibration the Hagerstown manager is having trouble grasping is the space between the Suns' ears.

Hagerstown resembled a row of dominos at times, tumbling over with mistakes, while Lexington executed soundly for a rather easy 9-1 win before a Wednesday afternoon Businessperson's Special at Municipal Stadium.

Lexington efficiently used 12 hits, causing most of the damage with hits down the lines and two-out hits. Meanwhile, the Suns ran and defended themselves out of games. But not by errors, more by poor decision making.

"We made a lot of mental mistakes," Hayes said. "We made a lot last night and addressed them this morning. Then we came out an made a whole new set. They will be addressed tomorrow. We are here to instruct, but the players have to start thinking for themselves."

The Suns' brainwaves were put on hold for much the game.

Hagerstown (20-20) ran itself out of innings three times and added a pair of fielding blunders to prolong Legends' innings. And even though it didn't ultimately hurt him, starting pitcher Kip Gross (1-4) tied a South Atlantic League record by hitting four batters.

"Like any game, pitching sets the tone," Hayes said. "Gross battled but was wild. He's young and inexperienced and hasn't pitched much. Still, when he was in the strike zone, he was strong. And (reliever Chris) Jones was a bright spot until that guy cued the ball with two outs (in the three-run sixth inning)."

Lexington (26-14) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first when Jon Topolski led off with a walk and scored on Felix Escalona's double down the left field line.

Hagerstown tied the game in the third against Lexington starter Nick Roberts (3-1) as Elliot Strankman led off with a double to left for his first of three hits and scored on Jason Ellison's one-out single.

From there, the Suns took their mental vacation.

Mark Walker hit a short single to right and was picked off after rounding first by Roberts, who was trailing the play. Strankman followed with a single, but was out stealing second.

Gross plunked three batters in the fourth inning, but only allowed on run. With one out, John Buck was hit by a pitch and scored on Paul Lockhart's double down the left field line.

The Legends added three in the sixth against Jones, who allowed Buck to double before striking out the next two batters. John Toven singled for one RBI before Jones walked Topolski and a double steal allowed the Suns to intentionally walk Escalona's to load the base. Brian Schmitt followed with a single up the middle off the end of the bat for two runs.

Lexington scored two runs in each the eighth and ninth innings off Mark Hills to cap the rout. The Legends' second run in the eighth came on Escalona's sacrifice fly to short right that Walker non-chalantly threw back to the infield.

"We have to learn to think for ourselves," Hayes said. "If we make these mistakes and learn from them ... Hey, take the experience and move in the right direction. We have to relax and play while showing some baseball savvy and play the game according to what the scoreboard dictates."

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