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Captains pitchers blow down Suns

June 14, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

Lake County fielders weren't as busy as you might expect in Sunday's 11-inning game at Municipal Stadium.

Defensively, the Captains position players were able to watch five pitchers combine to punch out the Hagerstown Suns 18 times on the way to a 4-2 victory, extending their winning streak to five games.

The top four batters in the Suns lineup were nonexistent in an 0-for-21 performance with Nate Schierholtz striking out five times and Travis Ishikawa four. Jason Columbus went down three times and Jesse Schmidt whiffed twice.

Yet, it took the Captains (32-31) until the 11th inning to dispose of the Suns (27-34).

Ryan Mulhern and Josh Novitsky each singled off reliever Tim Alvarez and both scored when the ninth batter in the order, Luis Cotto, drilled a double to left-center field.

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The Suns tried to rally in the bottom of the inning when Tim Hutting singled and Schmidt reached on an error with one out, but Ishikawa was fanned by winning pitcher Adam Hanson (2-2), who recorded four strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings.

Lake County went to closer Jim Ed Warden, and the 6-foot-7 righthander posted his fourth save when he whiffed Schierholtz.

"I can't explain what happened today," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said. "You wouldn't think the top of the order would strike out like that, but they have some good pitching."

Suns starter Travis Nesmith, who hasn't seen the win column since April 8, went the first five innings and probably deserved a better fate.

Hutting dropped a pop fly off the bat of Ricardo Rojas to open the game and cleanup batter Kevin Kouzmanoff, the Captains' leading hitter with a .335 average, doubled off the wall in right-center field to produce an unearned run.

Nesmith yielded a run-scoring single by Luis Cotto in the second inning before settling into a groove. He left the game with the score tied 2-2 after the Suns were presented with two runs by the Captains in the fourth inning.

Patrick Dobson and Mike Wagner each singled with one out and Jon Coutlangus walked to fill the sacks. Dobson scored on a passed ball by Lake County catcher Novitsky. Seconds later, another passed ball enabled Wagner to score.

"We gave them a run and we got two gifts," Ramsey said.

The Suns had a runner reach second base in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings, but couldn't get the clutch hit they needed.

"We had guys in the right situation but couldn't produce," Ramsey said. "They lead the league in average and they got in on the opportunities they had."

The Captains' winning outburst came against usually-reliable Alvarez (1-4), who had 15 saves and was following up on five combined innings of solid relief work from Mike Musgrave and Jon Bateman.

All told, the Suns allowed the Captains only four hits until the 11th inning and were held to six by Lake County, two each by Wagner and Brian Munhall.

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