Bullpen spells relief for Suns

June 03, 2004|by CURT HORNBECKER / Staff Correspondent

By the time the final out was recorded Wednesday night at Municipal Stadium, Hagerstown Suns manager Mike Ramsey was relieved in more ways than one.

When Suns starter Bryan Millikan "tweaked an elbow" after just one inning of work, Ramsey was forced to rely on his bullpen to save the day.

Four relievers later, Ramsey and the Suns walked away with a 3-1 win over Delmarva in a South Atlantic League game before 1,043 damp, chilly fans.

"We got a really good effort out of our bullpen tonight," said Ramsey. "We had to go to them early, and they gave us eight innings and gave up only one run."


The importance of the stellar pitching performances from Jesse English, Joe Bateman, Travis Nesmith and Tim Alvarez was magnified by the Suns' lack of offensive fireworks. Six of their nine hits came in two innings and accounted for all three runs.

Brian Munhall, Tim Hutting and Jon Coutlangus - the bottom third of the lineup - collected six of the nine hits for Hagerstown.

"Those three guys helped a lot tonight," said Ramsey. "Hutting and Coutlangus especially are starting to come around, and that's good to see. They were the keys to the victory tonight."

Consecutive singles by Munhall, Hutting and Coutlangus loaded the bases for Hagerstown (23-28) with none out in the third against Shorebirds starter Fredy Deza (3-7). Jesse Schmidt plated Munhall with the game's first run on a sacrifice fly, but the Suns were unable to inflict any more damage.

Delmarva (23-29) tied it in the sixth when Cory Harris singled with one out against Joe Bateman (3-3), stole second and scored on a Juan Guiterrez double. Hagerstown's first of two defensive gems kept the Shorebirds at bay when Coutlangus threw out Guiterrez trying to score on a single to center.

The Suns took the lead for good in the bottom half of the inning when Nate Schierholtz singled to left with one out and scored on an opposite-field double by Jason Columbus. The RBI for Columbus was his ninth in the last six games. Munhall's second single of the game plated Columbus to finish the scoring.

Another outstanding defensive play for the Suns saved at least one run in the seventh. A one-out walk to Nate Spears and a single by Travis Brown put runners on first and second for Delmarva. The Shorebirds' leading hitter, Cory Harris, hit a low line drive toward right center that was caught by a leaping Pat Dobson, who doubled Spears off second base to end the threat and the inning.

"We had a couple big plays defensively, and we got a few timely hits," said Ramsey. "Overall, we did a lot of things good tonight."

Alvarez pitched a perfect ninth inning to record his 12th save of the season, which keeps him among the league leaders in that category.

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