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Captains top Suns before rain arrives

June 05, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Sean Smith probably left the Hagerstown Suns wondering how much better he could be.

If it were in the Lake County starters' hands, the improvement might have been by one more hit.

Smith did all he could do, handcuffing the Suns on what became one controversial hit over six innings. He combined with reliever Todd Pennington on a seven-inning one-hitter as the Captains tripped Hagerstown 3-0 Wednesday in the opening game of a crucial series.

"He just dominated our hitters," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said. "He was able to put his breaking pitch and his change right where he wanted them. He only gave up one tainted hit ... you just have to tip your hat to him."

Lake County drew first blood in the four-game series which could well decide the South Atlantic League Northern Division's first-half championship.

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The Captains pulled 7 1/2 games ahead of the Suns and own a magic number of eight to end the chase. The second game of the scheduled doubleheader was rained out and rescheduled for tonight.

Smith's movement had Suns' hitters whipping up enough breeze to move the latest weather front through. The right hander faced 13 batters through the first four innings.

Only two walks tarnished a perfect effort until Jason Columbus' hit to lead off the fifth inning.

Or was it a hit?

With the Suns trailing 2-0, Columbus lined a drive heading to the left field corner, forcing Jon Van Every to charge from his straight-away outfield position diagonally for the chance to catch the fly. Van Every got to the warning track and slowed in anticipation of colliding with the fence.

He reached for the ball, just above waist high, that went in and out of his glove and on the ground. The scoring ruling credited a double, considering the distance Van Every had to cover and the difficulty added by the fence.

The double helped create the Suns only scoring chance of the game, but Columbus was left stranded as Travis Ishikawa and Brian Munhall struck out and Jake Wald grounded into a fielder's choice after Randy Walter walked.

"We wanted to take it to him but he didn't give us any chance," Ramsey said. "He just shut us down. We just have to wait to tee it up again and see what we can do."

Smith (5-2) walked two and stuck out seven before Pennington came on to retire the Suns in order with the help of two strikeouts to notch his ninth save.

Suns' starter Merkin Valdez (3-3) equaled Smith for the first 3 2/3 innings until Dave Wallace singled to left and trotted home on Shaun Larkin's homer to right for the 2-0 lead. The Captains picked up an insurance run in the seventh on Van Every's solo home run to right off Jeremy Schmidt.

"I thought we took too many pitches, but other than that, I thought our approaches were fine," Ramsey said. "If the other guys (on Lake County's pitching staff) are better than him, we are going to have to battle our butts off."

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