Father, Sun have reason to celebrate

June 20, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

In the most important game of his young career, Gabriel Hernandez took a simple approach.

For the minor league pitcher, Sunday's game was all about a father and his Sun.

Hernandez pitched the second no-hitter in Hagers-town Suns franchise history Sunday, a dominant 1-0 victory over the West Virginia Power before 2,301 fans at Municipal Stadium.

The victory moved the Suns into a tie for first place in the South Atlantic League's North Division on the last day of the first half.

The 19-year-old right-hander dedicated the performance to his father in Homestead, Fla., as a long-distance Father's Day gift.

"He's got a very big part of this," Hernandez said. "He has been with me every step and got me started early. It all came around. He wasn't able to listen to the game today because he was coaching a Little League game. ... I'm definitely going to call him and tell him all about it later."


Hernandez scratched the word "Dad" on the back of the pitcher's mound with his right foot before he threw the first pitch, and his father remained in his thoughts throughout the game.

"I didn't change any of my routine," Hernandez said. "I always wait to be the last guy out of the dugout between innings to allow them to get to their positions. It was something my dad told me and I always do it."

Hernandez, one of the top prospects in the New York Mets farm system, threw just the second no-hitter in the team's 25-year history. Clay Hensley threw a seven-inning perfect game on May 3, 2003, against Kannapolis.

Hernandez, the Mets' third selection in the 2004 amateur draft, faced three batters over the minimum. He struck out six and walked two. A third runner reached on a first-inning error. He retired 12 hitters in a row at one point and nine straight at another. It was his first no-hitter on any level of competition.

The Suns finished the first half with a 42-28 record and tied with Lexington for the North Division title. A playoff Saturday will determine the champion.

"This was very big," Hernandez said. "(The Suns) have worked so hard all year and I just wanted to put them in the best position to win. I got lucky with a couple of line drives, but the defense picked me up."

"What he did all speaks for itself," Hagerstown pitching coach Shawn Barton said. "He stepped up in a must-win game. ... Everything was routine and they were all routine plays. It's just beyond words ... and it was on Father's Day."

With two outs in the ninth inning, Suns' fans stood and began applauding as Hernandez faced William Lewis. With the count at two balls and two strikes, Lewis hit a fly ball to left.

Hernandez ran to the first-base line before turning to watch Dante Brinkley move toward the ball. Hagerstown's infielders began jumping up and down waiting for the ball to come down.

Upon the catch, players and coaches from the dugout rushed the field and congratulated Hernandez under a pile of humanity. Fans began chanting "Gaby, Gaby, Gaby."

Later, Hernandez received a celebratory shaving cream pie in the face from teammates during interviews.

"When I saw the fly ball, I just said 'Yeah,'" Hernandez said. "I was just overjoyed."

The Herald-Mail Articles