Temps are chilly, Suns are hot

April 10, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

The seats at Muncipal Stadium might have a few grooves worn in them by the end of this season.

That's because the Hagerstown Suns seem to have a team which will keep fans in them much longer than in the past.

During their first road trip of the season, the Suns have proved to be a team that keeps fans interested until the final out. They'll put their penchant for tight games to work in the home opener tonight at 6:35 against Lexington at Municipal Stadium.

The Suns have won three games - all by shutouts - while scoring just 13 runs in the first five games. Meanwhile, the defense has yet to commit an error, thanks in part to the starting pitchers accounting for 41 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings.


"I've been impressed so far," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said. "Our starting pitching has been really good and we've had good defense. I don't think we are going to beat ourselves. We've made some good plays and have been good up the middle."

The Suns scored a pair of 2-0 victories over Greensboro before scoring a 6-0 win in Kannapolis on Wednesday despite hitting just .212 with only one home run.

Many baseball teams have won league championships with good starting pitching, steady defense and average offense. The jury is still out on Hagerstown's offense, but the other two parts of the triangle are firmly in place.

"I don't care if we are playing close games as much as the pitching and defense doing well," Ramsey said. "No matter how we hit, as long as we have pitching and defense, we will have a chance."

Daniel Portorreal will get the home-opening start for the Suns against Lexington.

Portorreal (1-0) led the Suns to their first 2-0 shutout victory, going six innings and allowing three hits while striking out 10.

Portorreal is second in the Suns rotation behind Merkin Valdez (1-0), who has struck out 20 in 11 innings and has been a dominant trend setter for the Suns. Valdez came to the San Francisco orgainization as part of the Russ Ortiz-for-Damian Moss trade with Atlanta.

"I felt like Valdez would be the real deal. He threw outstanding in the opener," Ramsey said. "Portorreal has done well, too. We've only walked one or two batters in the first five games."

Catcher Brian Munhall and shortstop Jake Wald are the only two regulars to hit more than .300 in the first week of the season, though the Suns showed some signs of breaking out offensively in Wednesday's win.

The Suns come home after playing five of the seven games of the road trip, hoping to settle in at Municipal Stadium.

"I like opening up on the road, but it's always nice to get home," Ramsey said. "The weather will be cold ... that's not good, but we'll have to wait it out until it gets warm and once it does that, we can start locking on with our hitting."

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