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Suns ruin 'Dads day to end first half on high note

June 17, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

In one pitch, Branden Florence went from progressor to aggressor.

In the same pitch, the Hagerstown Suns went from followers to leaders.

Florence's first of two RBI singles ignited a four-run fifth inning on Sunday to allow the Suns to end the first half of the South Atlantic League season with a 6-4 victory over the Northern champion Hickory Crawdads.

It didn't seem like much, but John Von Benschoten's wild pitch allowed Derin McMains to move from first into scoring position at second base. That wayward offering changed Florence's mission.

"You just try to work with the situation," said Florence. "I try to go up there and do what it will take to help the team. When that happened, it didn't change my approach a lot. When I have two strikes on me, I cut down on my swing and try to go with the ball."

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Florence lined a 1-2 pitch throgh the left side of the infield to give the Suns a 2-1 lead. Tyler Von Schell followed by depositing a curveball over the left field fence for his 10th home run to chase Von Benschoten (5-3).

Mark Walker drew a one-out walk off reliever Julio Guerrero and stole second, setting up Robbie Meyer's single an a 5-1 Suns lead.

"That was a big at-bat," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said of Florence. "It gave us the first lead we have had in three or four days and then it got us in position to get that two-run homer and then another run."

Hickory didn't let up despite clinching the first-half title on Saturday when Lexington lost in 13 innings to Lakewood. The Crawdads (44-26) turned the tables on Suns starter Ryan Hannaman (4-2) with a three-run rally in the sixth.

Jeremy Harts' single, Miguel De La Cruz's double and a sacrifice fly by Jose Hernandez brought Hickory to press Hannaman by closing within 5-4.

Florence gave the Suns an insurance run in the sixth with his second run-scoring single - again with two strikes - to chase in McMains. McMains started the rally with a double down the right field line and took third when Harts bobbled the ball.

Albert Montes threw three innings of one-hit pitching to lock up the win for the Suns, who end the first half in fifth place at 34-36.

"It is what it is," Ramsey said. "It was a win against a team which had just clinched the title last night. It was a win to end the first half. We start with a clean slate on Thursday."

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