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Suns win, 5-1

August 26, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Kannapolis tried to take an intellectual approach to the game of baseball on Friday.

Branden Florence knocked the thinking cap off the top of the Intimidators' head.

Strategy. Smategy.

Kannapolis became twice pitchin', once fried when the Intimidators gave Florence the chance to hit with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth. Instead of a double play, Florence launched a three-run double off the left field fence to break a 1-1 tie and send the Hagerstown Suns to a 5-1 victory before 3,413 skyrocket spectators at Municipal Stadium.

"First, I was just excited that they would do it because that gives me more motivation to play," said Florence, who finished with two hits and four RBI. "I was just trying to hit the ball hard - hit it in half - and drive it."

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It was the middle act in a night filled with fireworks for the Suns. The night started with a transformer blowing up in center field during a pregame rainstorm. It ended with the Suns' final fireworks display of the season.

For once, most of the excitement came in the game.

With the game tied in the eighth, Tomas Garrido lined a one-out single to right off Kannapolis starter Tim Bittner (5-13). Scoop McDowell followed with a bloop double to left to move runners to second and third.

That brought pitching coach Sean Snedeker to the mound for a conference. For the second time, the Intimidators elected to walk the next hitter - in this case Derin McMains - to load the bases with the hopes of a double play.

It worked in the fourth inning, when Julian Benavidez got the free pass to load the bases for Kevin Alexander, who grounded into an inning-ending double play.

This time, it backfired - on the second pitch.

"I was just looking for a good pitch to hit," Florence said. "As soon as I came in from the field, I wanted the chance to win the game. The guys in front of me did a great job getting on."

Florence has been the most dangerous of the Suns hitters, making the risk for Kannapolis a big one.

"I didn't think they would walk him," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said. "Florence is everything you want in a hitter. It's a tough call. It could have worked out, but it didn't. Strategy is strategy, but it worked out for us tonight."

Lost in the shuffle was another outstanding outing by Ryan Hannaman, which ended in no decision. Hannaman, who allowed an unearned run in the fifth off a Benavidez error, allowed one hit and three walks with nine strikeouts over seven innings.

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