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Schierholtz lifts Suns to win in a split

May 17, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

If Nate Schierholtz could predict he'd hit two walkoff home runs in one week, then he might consider predicting the winning numbers in the next lottery.

Following up on Wednesday's game-winning performance against Rome, the hard-hitting third baseman duplicated the effort with a three-run blast over the right-field fence in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday to give the Hagerstown Suns a 6-4 victory over Columbus in the completion of Saturday's suspended game.

Columbus came back in the second game of the doubleheader to post a 3-1 victory.

"Nate had a great time of it today," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said. "He had a tremendous at-bat. We had a couple of errors but Knowlton (Jay) made some fine defensive plays to save some runs."

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Hagerstown, before an errorless second game, had been guilty of 18 errors in its last eight games. But of more concern to Ramsey was the Suns' lack of offensive weaponry with runners in scoring position.

"We had chances to score a lot of runs and we had a chance to still win the second game in the seventh," Ramsey said. "I want us to be aggressive. ... We're taking too many fastballs when runners are in scoring position."

The Suns stranded five runners in scoring position in the first game and two more in the second.

The Suns (15-22) took a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning of the opener on a two-run double by Jonathan Armitage that scored Travis Ishikawa (walk) and Schierholtz (single).

However, the Catfish (20-16) quickly answered in the sixth when two more critical Suns errors paved the way for three runs, including two unearned.

Sean Martin, pitching in relief of Juan Serrato, allowed a one-out double by Andy Laroche, who scored on a single by Mike Nixon. Xavier Paul grounded to Martin, who whirled and threw to second with Tim Hutting covering, but Hutting dropped the ball on the front end of a surefire double play. Matt Kemp drove in Nixon with a hit to center that Jon Coutlangus overran, setting up a perfectly executed squeeze bunt play by Alejandro DeAza that scored Paul.

An error in the Suns' half of the ninth by closer Jose Diaz was critical after he hit Hutting leading off. On a sacrifice bunt by Coutlangus, Diaz threw wildly to second but then retired the next two Suns before Schierholtz ended the game with his ninth homer of the year, the first served up by Diaz this season.

Joe Bateman (4-1) continued to pitch effectively out of the pen for the Suns with 1 1/3 innings of four-strikeout relief for the win.

The Suns' Bryan Millikan didn't fool any Columbus batters to open the second game as Jereme Milons opened with a triple and promptly scored on a single by Chin-lung Hu before settling into a groove that lasted until the seventh inning.

Hagerstown knotted the score at 1-1 in the last of the sixth on a single and stolen base by Ishikawa and run-scoring single by Jesse Schmidt, who greeted Catfish reliever Jamaal Hamilton with the hit.

Millikan, however, couldn't keep up the hurling effort into the seventh, allowing a leadoff single to Tony Abreu, who was sacrificed to second.

Ramsey made the pitching change to Mike Musgrave, who walked Jimmy Rohan and then gave up a run-scoring double to Dominique Laurin, who scored on a single by Milons.

"Bryan threw 70 pitches through six innings and I thought he had enough left in him to finish seven innings," Ramsey said. "He lost his fastball right away. But he pitched a nice game."

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