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Alexander's return from DL sparks Suns

July 14, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

The welcome mat was rolled out for Kevin Alexander on Sunday and he made the most of his return to the lineup as the catalyst to a 5-3 Hagerstown Suns' victory over Lake County.

Out for two months following a freakish hand injury suffered in pre-game drills, Alexander led a 12-hit attack as the Suns (12-9, South Atlantic League second half) opened a four-game series against the Captains (13-9, second half) and their ace lefty, Kevin Ramsey.

Alexander singled to ignite a two-run third inning, stole second and scored on a single by Kevin Kelly, who eventually crossed the plate on a single by Brian Munhall.

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In the next inning, Jake Wald led off with a double but Ramsey retired Brian Buscher and Julian Benavidez and seemed out of trouble before Alexander drove in Wald with a single.

Alexander reached second on a balk and then scored on a Lake County throwing error by second baseman Micah Schilling.

"It feels great to be back with the guys and in a real game," Alexander said while signing autographs. "I just hope to contribute on a regular basis."

Suns manager Mike Ramsey won't have a problem finding a spot for Alexander.

"He's a tough out and a solid hitter," Ramsey said. "He'll get his at-bats somewhere in the lineup."

Alexander was facing Ramsey for the first time this year and said his first hit was off a split finger fastball and the second "was on a fastball after he tried some junk."

Hagerstown touched Ramsey for a fifth run in the fifth inning after two outs when Jay Knowlton, Kelly and Munhall each hit singles, Munhall's hit sending Ramsey to an early shower.

Ramsey (10-4) had throttled the Suns twice in the first half of the season as the Captains won their first seven meetings with Hagerstown before the Suns managed a win on June 15. He lasted only 4 2-3 innings Sunday, allowing 10 hits and all five runs.

Brian Stirm picked up his eighth win against two losses and blazed through the first three innings, striking out six.

His only hiccups in a six-inning performance were a two-run homer by Bryan Kirby in the fourth and a solo shot by Ben Francisco in the sixth.

Stirm's scoreless streak ended at 17 innings when he gave up the Kirby homer, but he was crafty enough as he worked to the bullpen, which took over in the seventh inning.

Jason Waddell pitched two innings and Matt Palmer recorded his 21st save.

"This was a nice day and a good win for us," Ramsey said. "We swung the bats well, got an early cushion and Stirm did what he had to do to minimize their bats.

"Lake County is a terrific team and they're working with some new faces," Ramsey said. "We just want to play tough and we'll see where we're at."

Kelly, recently moved to second base following his return from the disabled list, had one of his best days of the season with a three-hit effort.

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