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Hickory feeds at Suns' party

July 02, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

Thursday's Summer Beach Party promotion was no picnic on the playground yards for the Hagerstown Suns at Municipal Stadium.

Most among the 2,799 fans in attendance had plenty of condiments in addition to the Thirsty Thursday fare, but Hickory's Leo Nunez was not about to let the Suns relish the thought of victory as the Crawdads opened the four-game series with a 5-1 win.

Nunez, a lanky, 150-pound right-hander, threw some hot mustard at the Suns for a complete-game five-hitter as he spread out 115 pitches, becoming the first Hickory pitcher to not only reach the ninth inning, but throw a complete game.

"(Getting to the ninth) is a rarity these days," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said. "Give (Nunez) credit, he pitched a heckuva game."

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Suns pitcher Omar Anez (1-1), making his third start of the year, matched Nunez pitch for pitch through the first five innings before the Crawdads (4-3 second half) broke loose for 1-0 lead in the sixth inning.

Javier Guzman singled to open the inning and scored when Mike Cockrell, showing bunt, got the bat back into position to hit and drilled a double off the wall in center field. Nunez retired the next three batters to avoid further damage.

However, the Suns' defense failed in the seventh after the Crawdads loaded the bases on a double by Brad Rea, a hit batsman and an intentional walk.

On a grounder by Cockrell headed toward Tim Hutting at short, Adam Boeve's instinctive baserunning going from second to third hindered Hutting fielding the ball as he threw wildly to first, allowing two runs to score.

"(Anez) has been a good addition for us," said Ramsey. "He made good pitches to get outs and he threw his breaking ball for strikes."

After Hickory added two runs in the ninth inning off reliever Chris George, Ramsey finally saw some action in the third-base coaching box when the Suns averted the shutout.

Travis Ishikawa, recovering from a wrist injury, stroked the second of his two doubles to lead off the inning. After Nunez struck out Pat Dobson and Jason Columbus, Mike Wagner rapped a sharp single to center to bring in Ishikawa.

Coming off the South Atlantic League All-Star break, the Suns (2-5) spent Monday and Tuesday with extended workouts before an off day Wednesday.

"We're just working on team fundamentals," said Ramsey, as the Suns continue to look for all the tasty ingredients to come together at one time. "We feel we are not too far off, but we have to get some consistency."

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