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Intimidators make Suns flinch

May 31, 2004|By BOB PARASILITI

It was a game of chicken, baseball style.

The Hagerstown Suns and Kannapolis Intimidators stared at each other. Each waited for the other to make the move.

After five innings of riveted attention, the Suns made the fatal flinch. Hagerstown committed two key errors and a couple of gaffes on the basepaths which led to Kannapolis' 4-1 victory Sunday before 2,518 fans at Municipal Stadium.

"When you get into a game like that, the margin of error becomes smaller," Hagerstown manager Mike Ramsey said. "We didn't play crisply today, but it wasn't because of a lack of effort. We made a couple of baserunning mistakes and didn't handle a bunt very well. Then, we couldn't figure out their pitcher."

Hagerstown's margin shrunk like a cotton shirt in hot water.

Hagerstown's Ben Thurmond and Kannapolis' Brandon McCarthy locked into a pitching duel through the first five innings. Thurmond pitched himself out of impending danger while McCarthy mowed through his opposition by recording eight of his first 15 outs by strikeout.

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"(Thurmond) pitched well and got away with a couple of hangers," Ramsey said. "He's not pitching like he wants to because he is getting some of his pitches up, but I'll take my chances with him every time. I like his makeup. He knows what he is trying to do out there."

Thurmond left after throwing 65 pitches in five innings after only three days' rest. Ryan Sadowski came on in relief and brought bad fortune with him.

Sadowski issued a leadoff walk to Antoin Gray, who scored all the way from first when Robert Valido's single hopped past left fielder John Armitage for an error.

McCarthy continued to handcuff the Suns on one hit while striking out 11 entering the seventh inning. In the seventh, Hagerstown threatened, but literally ran itself out of hope.

Nate Schierholtz led off with a double to center, but was erased while trying to take third on Jason Columbus' grounder to short. Then with two outs, Columbus was thrown out while trying to take third on Mike Wagner's single to right, to keep the score at 1-0.

Hagerstown's lack of execution backed the Suns into a corner in the eighth. Cody Haggerty reached on an error by second baseman Pat Dobson and moved into second when Gray reached safely on a sacrifice-bunt attempt. Valido followed with a two-run single up the middle to chase Sadowski (1-4) while gaining a 3-0 lead. Micah Schnurstein added an insurance run with an RBI single.

McCarthy (5-4) was lifted after the seventh inning, allowing just the three hits while striking out 13, in favor of Fabio Castro.

The Suns avoided the shutout in the ninth as Dobson drew a leadoff walk and scored on Columbus' two-out double to center. Castro was lifted after the hit for closer Ehren Wasserman, who got Armitage to ground out to end the game.

"It was one of those days when we didn't get enough offense to recover from our mistakes on the bases," Ramsey said. "We only had five hits and struck out 13 times. We didn't give ourselves enough of a chance."

The Suns played without Jay Knowlton, who was promoted to Double-A Norwich before the game. Hagerstown filled the roster spot by activating infielder Tomas Garrido.

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