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Benavidez steps out of shadows

Suns third baseman delivers big hit in 5-3 win over Kannapolis.

Suns third baseman delivers big hit in 5-3 win over Kannapolis.

August 25, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Julian Benavidez might soon star in baseball's version of Groundhog Day.

Day after day, at-bat after at-bat, it's been the same thing. Opponents have fed the Hagerstown Suns' third baseman a steady diet of breaking balls, low and inside. He'd practically see them in his sleep.

But Benavidez crossed up Kannapolis starter Chris Honel on Saturday night. The Intimidator tried to throw him a curve and he knew it was coming.

Benavidez stood in and stroked a two-run, two-out single to ignite a three-run fifth inning to lead the Suns to a 5-3 victory over Kannapolis and further separate Hagerstown from the Intimidators and last place in the South Atlantic League's Northern Division.

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"I was looking for an off-speed pitch," Benavidez said. "I guessed he was going to try and get me out with a curve down and I tried to hit it up the middle."

Benavidez's third hit of the night went to short center field to score Derin McMains from third and a hard-charging Branden Florence - who also had three hits - from second to break a 2-2 tie.

"You get pitching and a couple of timely hits and you'll do OK," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said. "It's a tried-and-true formula. Bennie swung the bat well tonight. He was staying on top of the ball. He's been streaky, but he has been coming on in the end."

Kevin Alexander followed with a double to score Benavidez to give starter Todd Uzzell (3-6) a 5-2 lead and the victory for his six-inning performance of allowing three runs on eight hits.

The win allowed Suns (27-34, 61-70) to open a two-game advantage over Kannapolis for sixth place in the North, just 1 1/2 games behind Charleston for fifth place.

Hagerstown took a 1-0 lead in the first as Scoop McDowell led off with a walk, stole second and scored on Florence's single. It was Florence's third-straight multiple-hit game, but it was overshadowed by his hustle on Benavidez's hit.

"(Florence) plays the game very hard and what's happening is a lot of people are starting to sit up and take notice of this guy," Ramsey said. "He's an excellent hitter who never seems to slump and he's making some noise."

Derek Wigginton's single and Gustavo Molina's sacrifice fly in the second gave Kannapolis a 2-1 lead. The Suns tied the game tied the game on Miguel Miranda's bloop single in the fifth.

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