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Suns take pair from Savannah

April 27, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

For twice, the Hagerstown Suns made the best out of some good situations.

Clutch hitting - especially with runners in scoring position - was becoming a phobia for the Suns this season ... until Saturday.

Jake Wald turned a slug bunt into a game-winning single down the first-base line in the bottom of the seventh to give Hagerstown a 2-1 win over Savannah and a doubleheader sweep.

It came on the heels of a pair of clutch run-scoring singles hit up the middle by Kevin Alexander and Aaron Hornostaj for a 3-1 victory in the opener.

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"From the start, we have been trying to get the guys to stay in the middle of the field," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said.

Merkin Valdez (2-0) pitched a complete game in the opener and the trio of Juan Serrato, Josh Habel and Matt Palmer (3-0) combined to hold Savannah to just two runs in the two games.

In the nightcap, the Sand Gnats spun the wheel play against Wald, who took advantage of the defensive fire drill to end the game.

With no outs and runners on first and second, the Suns (10-11) were just trying to advance the runners while Savannah looked to defend a sacrifice bunt and wheel into a force play at third.

Wald, who has struggled with a .138 batting average heading into Saturday's games, gave the impression he was going to bunt on Pierre-Luc Marceau's pitch while the Savannah infield went in motion. The shortstop pulled back on the bunt and swung at the pitch, grounding it inside the first-base line to score Karl Jurnigan with the winning run.

"It's been awhile since I had a hit, so it's nice to get a game-winner," Wald said. "But when we are struggling, we know that we have so many games still to play, so we have to trust our swings. (Ramsey) told me to step back and hit it up the middle. I was a little late and it wasn't up the middle, but I'll take it."

The Suns had taken a 1-0 lead in the third when Dayton Buller doubled, took second on Wald's sacrifice bunt and scored on an errant throw by Savannah catcher Josh Emmerick on Fred Lewis' stolen base. The Sand Gnats tied the game in the fifth on Emmrick's sacrifice fly.

In the opener, the Suns took a 2-0 lead in the third to support the two-hit, seven-strikeout pitching of Valdez. Randy Walter walked and took third on Lewis' single to right. After Lewis stole second, Alexander ripped a shot through the pitcher's box to score both runs.

"I had two strikes on me and then I started thinking to take it up the middle or the other way," Alexander said.

Savannah used a Chad Chop homer to get one of the runs back in the fourth.

"We stayed close with the good pitching and our defense did a nice job today," Ramsey said. "Our situational hitting has been getting better. Today, these were the kind of games I envisioned us playing all year."

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