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Suns close up shop bit too early

April 23, 2002|BY BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Suns felt safe and secure after slamming the door on Asheville on Monday.

Safe, that is, until the key broke off in the lock.

Hagerstown owned a 3-2 lead with two outs in the ninth, but the Tourists didn't pack it in. Asheville worked closer Alberto Montes for a pair of walks and turned the opening into a four-run rally and a 6-3 victory at Municipal Stadium.

"We figured out a way to give that one away," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said. "When you get to the ninth with the lead, you have to be able to close the deal. They got the walks and made us pay with a couple of big hits."

Montes (0-1) started the ninth with a pair of routine outs before issuing Nick Gretz his fourth walk of the game. Pinch-hitter T.J. Bird followed with a second free pass.

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Asheville (9-9) tied the game on Mike Tejada's single to center that center fielder Mark Walker threw away to allow the runners to advance. Jose Vazquez ripped a two-run double off the center field wall and scored when Ashley Freeman's single went through shortstop Leonel Cabrera for the 6-3 lead.

Hagerstown (9-9) went down meekly in order against Asheville closer Alex Serrano to make a winner of reliever Ryan Spiers and ruin what had been a strong game for the Suns for the first eight innings.

"When you go into the ninth with the lead, you have done everything you had to to win the game," Ramsey said. "We have to figure out a way to get those last three outs."

Hagerstown put itself in position to win another one-run game with some clutch hitting and tight defense in the first eight innings.

After starter Anthony Pannone allowed Asheville to take a 1-0 lead in the second, Julian Benavidez almost single-handedly turned the game the Suns' way.

Hagerstown's third baseman clubbed an RBI double off the left field fence to chase Tyler Von Schell around from first to tie the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the inning. Von Schell led off with a single off Asheville starter Zach Parker.

The Suns took the lead in the third when Derin McMains hit a one-out single to right, took second on a grounder and stole third before Von Schell walked. Benavidez chased both runners home with a double to right center field for a 3-1 lead.

Jason Frome drove in Tena with Asheville's second run with a single to right but was thrown out while trying to stretch it into a double. Pannone wiggled out of further trouble in the fifth and Ryan Meaux got the Suns out of a bases-loaded situation in the seventh to preserve the 3-2 lead.

"I'll take those close games every time," Ramsey said. "When you can do that, anything can happen. We just have to make sure we can keep the leads."

Suns Today: vs. Asheville Tourists

Time: 7Radio: WHAG 1410

Probable Starters:

Suns - Ryan Hannaman (1-0, 2.92)

Asheville - Jermaine VanBuren (1-2, 7.07)

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