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Suns waste strong effort from Hensley in loss

April 29, 2003|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown Suns manager Mike Ramsey isn't ready to push the panic button ... not just yet anyway.

The Suns got another strong pitching performance - this time from Clay Hensley - but couldn't generate enough offense in the late innings to avoid a 3-2 loss at the hands of the Savannah SandGnats Monday at Municipal Stadium.

The lack of offense is nothing new for the Suns. Through Sunday's games, Hagerstown had scored the fewest runs in the South Atlantic League, while only Lakewood and Delmarva had collected fewer hits.

Still, Ramsey is the picture of calm. He said he's having no trouble practicing patience with his young hitters.

"We're only 23 games in. There's still 117 to go," Ramsey said. "I keep saying, 'Give me until June.' Then I'll tell you if I'm worried. If we're not seeing some improvement then, we'll take a look at things."

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The Suns (10-13) had opportunities in the eighth and ninth innings to tie the game, but came up short both times.

Leading 2-1, Savannah reliever Tom Mitchell issued back-to-back walks to Jake Wald and Fred Lewis to start the bottom of the eighth.

Kevin Alexander stepped in and, with a 2-0 count, knocked a grounder down the third-base line. Shawn Norris grabbed the ball and forced Wald out at third before throwing to first to complete the double play. Jon Searles came on and struck out Aaron Hornostaj looking to end the inning.

"I have to put some of that on me," Ramsey said. "I had the bunt on for Kevin, then took it off and he hit into the double play."

The SandGnats (10-13) added a needed insurance run in the top of the ninth. With one out, Frank Diaz and Chad Chop lined nearly identical singles over the left shoulder of Suns reliever Josh Habel. Jason Conslik followed with a well-executed hit-and-run into the hole to score Diaz for a 3-1 Savannah lead.

Jason Columbus led off the bottom of the ninth with a double into the left field corner off Chris Barlow and moved to third on a groundout by Carlos Sosa. Brian Munhall drew a two-out walk before Randy Walter singled to the left side, scoring Columbus.

Barlow struck out Wald to end the game and earn his third save.

Columbus had two of the Suns' six hits, including a homer that tied the game at 1-1 in the fourth. Fred Lewis also had two hits.

Hensley was sharp in his fifth start of the season. He allowed just three hits and one run - that on a first-inning homer by Cristian Berroa. He walked one and struck out seven.

"That's four in a row for him," Ramsey said. "His first start was bad, but the last four have been very good. I've got no problem with his effort."

Scott Munter (1-1) took the loss for the Suns after allowing two hits and an RBI fielder's choice by Chop in the seventh.

Darrell Rasner (1-2) got the win for Savannah, allowing one run and four hits in six innings while striking out seven.




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