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Slam, bang ... Suns win hope opener

April 09, 2002|BY BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Suns owe you one, Willie McGee ... wherever you are.

And, for that matter Willie, Bryan Carter owes you four.

Carter took some sage old advice from the San Francisco Giants hitting coach and former National League batting champion and turned it into instant success with a grand slam to highlight a nine-run sixth inning Monday and lead the Hagerstown Suns to a 9-4 opening day victory over the Charleston (W.Va.) Alley Cats before an opening-day crowd of 3,418 fans at Municipal Stadium.

"I asked him what do you do when you are hitting with (a count of) two strikes (on you)," the Suns right fielder said. "He said, 'Don't get there.'"

Carter took the words to heart, and broke Charleston's in the sixth inning.

It came just after the Suns gave their first glimmer of life in the opener after falling behind 2-0 early. Hagerstown (2-5) had just chased Charleston starter Tree Thorpe, who left with the bases loaded, one out and a run in.

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Carter stepped in and took the two-strike problem out of play by hitting Jesse Harper's first pitch into the jet stream heading to left field. Rich Jiminez went back on the ball only to watch it clear the fence to give the Suns a 5-1 lead.

It was just enough time for Hagerstown to reload and score four more runs for a 9-2 lead.

"We were able to wait and get the first guy to elevate the ball a little," Carter said. "And then we were able to pick the ball up on the second guy when he first came in. After that, he made adjustments and we didn't hit him."

Tyler Von Schell got an RBI single before the Suns reloaded the bases. Mark Walker's grounder, a passed ball and Julio Cordido's run-scoring double capped another big-inning onslaught that has become Hagerstown's trademark.

"We had an inning like that go against us (Sunday). It's nice to get one going for us," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said. "Our hitters seem to come alive late in the game. Our guys just go out there and battle."

The big inning turned starter Peterson Benjamin from hard-luck loser into a deserving winner. Benjamin got ahead of hitters early and was only really hurt by Mike Snyder's first-pitch home run in the first.

"I thought Benjamin was outstanding," Ramsey said. "He had command for six innings and did a masterful job. He didn't light up the gun, but he got first-pitch strikes consistently. Pitchers do that, they are ahead of the game."

Charleston (0-5) scored single runs in the first, second (with the help of two Suns errors), seventh and eighth.

The Suns collected 13 hits, including three by Julian Benavidez and two each by Derin McMains, Robbie Meyer and Cordido.

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