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Suns pass the aggression test

April 08, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

If first impressions lead to nicknames, Wilson Batista would probably be called "Da Fuse."

That's because his aggressive approach on the basepaths helped make the Hagerstown Suns "Da Bomb" on Thursday.

Hagerstown exploded for four runs in the first inning, spearheaded by Batista and the aggressive running of the top half of the batting order, as the Suns opened their 25th anniversary season with a 9-1 victory over the West Virginia Power before 2,411 fans at Municipal Stadium.

The Suns unveiled their new era as the Single-A South Atlantic League affiliate of the New York Mets with a complete display of manager Gene Richards' game plan - bold base running, timely hitting, defensive execution and consistent pitching.

"The guys were very active," Richards said. "Sometimes it wasn't the wise thing to do, but they did a great job."

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The Suns short-circuited the Power from the start. First, starting pitcher Gabriel Hernandez sapped the Power, the new affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, with just a harmless first-inning single.

In the bottom of the inning, Batista turned a leadoff walk off starter Mark Rogers, Milwaukee's top pick in the 2004 draft, into a catalyst for the inning. He immediately stole second and cruised home on Carlos Gomez's single after Dante Brinkley was hit in the helmet with a pitch.

"Batista had a great first at-bat with that walk," Richards said. "He set the tone for the game with that."

Batista took the opportunity to introduce the SAL to his job for the season - putting the Suns in motion.

"I wanted to help the team. I will run at any time," Batista said. "I need to do that all year."

It carried over as the Suns made six steal attempts on the night, reaching safely on three of them. The aggressive pressure allowed the Suns to make something out of nothing as the top five hitters in the order went 5-for-15 - all singles - with four walks and a hit batsman while scoring five of the team's nine runs. Four of the free passes the Suns received resulted in runs.

"Hopefully we will be able to do that from one through nine (in the batting order)," Richards said. "We want to get them moving. We want them to be aggressive."

The Suns finished their first-inning damage as first baseman Mike Carp grounded to second to bring home a run, followed by an RBI single by left fielder Jesus Gamero and a run-scoring double by second baseman Ryan Coultas to give Hernandez all the cushion he needed.

"That first inning, when we got three or four runs on the board, I got relaxed," Hernandez said. "Getting one or two runs would have helped me relax. I got loose and my fastball started going in the second inning. Then I got my change and curve going and I struck out two in the second inning."

Hernandez lasted 4 1/3 innings on his 65-pitch limit, shutting out the Power on two hits and a walk while striking out six. Mike Devaney got the win with 3 2/3 innings of relief, allowing one run on back-to-back doubles by Carlos Corporan and Freddy Parejo in the seventh, while striking out four.

By then, it didn't matter because the Suns had the game well in hand. Hagerstown had at least one hit in every inning, finishing with 12 for the game.

Hagerstown picked up two runs in the third thanks to Gomez's thievery. Gomez walked and stole second before Camp drew a one-out walk. Gomez broke for third and forced Corporan into a passed ball which he then threw away, allowing the run to score. Carp scored on Gamero's second run-scoring single.

Third baseman Grant Psomas took care of the rest of Hagerstown's scoring with a solo home run in the sixth and a two-run blast to dead center in the eighth. Gamero finished with three hits while Psomas and Batista added two each.

"Aggressiveness is what it's all about," Richards said. "We might have run at the wrong time a couple of times, but I wanted to let them get the kinks out and let it all hang out."

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