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Patience pays off for Suns

May 07, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Karl Jernigan took time to work on two sets of bases Tuesday - total and data.

The Hagerstown Suns center fielder, who has had about as much luck at the plate as the coyote has had in catching the roadrunner, dug in and took everything Kannapolis starting pitcher Tim Bittner could muster.

The perseverance paid off as Jernigan battled long and hard for his two hits - the second to drive in a fifth-inning run and break a scoreless tie - to pace the Suns to a 3-0 victory on an Education Day morning matinee at Municipal Stadium.

Jernigan entered the game hitting .125 and used a patient approach as the leadoff hitter. He worked the count to two strikes and fouled off pitches to stay alive until he found something he liked. The more pitches he got, the more he knew about Bittner's tendencies.

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"When I worked the count to two strikes, I'm just trying to get a good pitch and put it into play," Jernigan said. "When I was getting deep in the count, I got to see all his pitches. I didn't know what he would throw, but I knew the way he would work. When you start with a hit in your first at-bat, it builds your confidence for the rest of the day."

Jernigan opened the game with a single but was stranded at third. The early success lent itself to the fifth-inning rally.

After Carlos Sosa and Brian Munhall led off the inning with singles, Jernigan caught the Intimidators' defense in motion and rolled a single through the left side of the infield to score Sosa. Derin McMains followed with a grounder to deep short which scored Munhall and gave Suns starter Merkin Valdez (3-1) all the support he needed.

"That was a big hit for me," Jernigan said.

It was even bigger for the Suns (15-18), who needed to display some offense in support of the ace of their pitching staff.

Valdez was in total control of the game, despite the uncharacteristic three walks he allowed. He shut out the Intimidators on two hits, struck out eight and was never in trouble until he was lifted for Matt Palmer with two runners on and one out in the eighth.

"We had some great pitching," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said. "(Valdez) started great, and Palmer came in and did what he had to. Valdez had good presence and has the total package for a pitcher at this level.

"Jernigan had an outstanding game for just coming off the (disabled list). He continues to work hard. He hasn't had much luck hitting, but he came in ready today and he set up a couple of innings for us."

Palmer retired the first two batters he faced to get Hagerstown out of the jam in the eighth and then retired Kannapolis in order in the ninth for his third save.

The Suns took four of six games from Kannapolis in the extended series.

The Suns picked up an insurance run in the eighth when Aaron Hornostaj homered to right field off reliever Adam Larson.

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