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Suns look on sunny side, lose

April 28, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

Even the best weather of the young season had a negative impact on the Hagerstown Suns Sunday afternoon at Municipal Stadium.

Staring directly into a searing high sun and fighting a gusty breeze from third base to right field, third baseman Kevin Kelly battled a pop foul off the bat of Savannah's Chad Chop.

Kelly dropped the ball, giving a ray of hope to Chop, who then drilled a single to left that was instrumental in a three-run second inning as Savannah snapped the Suns' modest three-game winning streak, 4-3.

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"It wasn't so much the wind, but the sun was coming in over the first base side that made the fly tough," Kelly said. "I got a glove on the ball, but I just dropped it."

After Matthew Cain started the game with four straight strikeouts, he walked Shawn Norris, and after the Chop hit, gave up a single to Frank Diaz that loaded the bases.

Catcher Chad Emerick, hitting .189 entering the game, then drilled a two-run single to score Norris and Chop. Diaz came around to score on a fielder's choice by Jason Conlisk before Cain retired the side.

"I thought Kevin had a pretty good read on the ball," manager Mike Ramsey said. "He just dropped it, but that play did not beat us."

Savannah (9-13) pitcher Michael Hinckley certainly did not look like an 0-1 pitcher with a 4.00 ERA and an allowed batting average of .319. Through the first four innings, the lanky lefty was perfect.

Hinckley's armor cracked in the fifth when Kelly led off with a walk, followed by Jason Columbus' home run to right field, his third of the season, bring the sun-drenched Suns fans to their feet.

The SandGnats answered in the sixth on Larry Broadway's solo home run.

The Suns (10-12) drew close again in the seventh when Columbus walked and scored from first on a long double to left by Randy Walter, his second of the game.

Hinckley was relieved by Danny Rueckel, who gave up a single to Steve Holm, only his second hit of the season in limited duty. However, Walter was held at third by manager Mike Ramsey with the hit reaching a shallow Chop in left.

Jake Wald, who made two brilliant major league-type plays at shortstop, then flied out to Chop.

Faced with a final opportunity to send the fans home happy on Guaranteed Win Day, Kelly singled to open the ninth, but Columbus followed with a double play. Travis Ishikawa then singled, but Walter flied to center, leaving 979 fans with a redeemable ticket voucher for another Suns home game.

Cain, a right-hander from Tennessee, regained his composure and ended with eight strikeouts in six innings of work despite falling to 1-3.

"It was a good outing for Cain," Ramsey said. "Early on his curve was good. He just got some pitches out over the place in the second inning."

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