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Suns again mulling one that got away

June 10, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Gene Richards looked squarely at the trees and saw the forest on Thursday.

The Suns gave up four runs in the ninth to saddle themselves with another fall-from-ahead 5-4 loss, this time to the Lake County Captains. It was another game in which the bullpen allowed starter Gabriel Hernandez to come away with nothing to show for a good performance.

Yet the game was everything Richards had been hoping for out of the Suns, the loss notwithstanding.

"Yes, it was one that got away," Richards said. "But I thought the players did a lot better with game fundamentals. They moved runners. They got dirty on defense. We played well for 8 1/2 innings."

But that last half-inning was a killer.

The loss, combined with Lexington's 6-3 win over West Virginia, put Hagerstown (37-24) in a tie with the Legends for first place in the South Atlantic League's North Division race with nine games remaining in the half. Lake County is in third place, two games off the pace.

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Hernandez and Bo Bowman handcuffed Lake County for eight innings, turning over a 4-1 lead to closer Carlos Muniz. But Muniz, who was pitching for the second straight night, showed no sharpness. He opened the inning by walking Brian Barton and Fernando Pacheco, which came back to bite him and the Suns in the long run.

Chad Longworth loaded the bases with a broken bat single before Brian Finegan stroked a two-run double and Juan Valdez added a two-run single to give Lake County the lead.

"The walks killed us," Richards said. "They usually do every time. For some reason, (Hernandez) pitches in the rain. He pitches hard, limits his walks and throws strikes. He leaves the game winning, and we can't pull it out for him.

It was the fourth time Hernandez left the game with the lead and received no-decision.

The Suns battled using fundamental, situational baseball to stake Hernandez to a 3-0 lead. Mike Carp and Grant Psomas drew consecutive walks off Lake County starter Jeff Lofgren to open the fourth. After a wild pitch, Derran Watts drove in a run with a grounder to short for a 1-0 lead.

Hernandez struck out the side in the fifth before Hagerstown added two runs on an Ambiorix Concepcion grounder and a Carp single for the 3-0 lead.

Argenis Reyes doubled off Hernandez for his third hit in the sixth and moved around to score on grounders by Mike Butia and Wyatt Toregas to cut the lead to 3-1. Psomas got the run back with a leadoff home run off Scott Roehl (3-3) in the eighth, but it wasn't enough.

Ryan Coultas had his second straight three-hit game for the Suns and Psomas and Concepcion added two hits each for the Suns. Because of the ninth inning, it all fell short, but Richards looked at it as a case of losing one here just to make major improvements down the road.

"Sure, this was positive," Richards said. "We haven't been playing that well. If we can do this and put it together again for eight to 10 games of baseball, a lot of positive things can happen. I hope this was something to build on and I hope we start building on it again tomorrow."

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