Suns win first half, clinch playoff spot

June 26, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

Manager Gene Richards wasn't in any hurry to have his usual postgame meeting with his Hagerstown Suns.

There was the business of celebrating with champagne outside the clubhouse after the Suns defeated Lexington 9-4 on Saturday night in front of 3,488 boisterous fans at Municipal Stadium to clinch the South Atlantic League North Division first-half title and a berth in the postseason playoffs.

The second-half contest held the meaningful result as the two teams ended the first half deadlocked with 42-28 records. The first-half title is the first for a Hagerstown team since the 2001 season when the Suns, then an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, won the second half on the final day of the season.

A clutch two-run double by Derran Watts knotted the score at 4-4 in the bottom of the fourth inning after Lexington reached Suns starter Gabe Hernandez for four runs in the top of the third.


It was the fuel that ignited the fire against Lexington starter Troy Patton, who was rocked in a start by the Suns on June 14 at the stadium.

The ignition to a five-run fifth inning started with a walk to Ryan Coultas. Carlos Gomez followed with a single, and a throwing error by Legends third baseman Bryan Triplett allowed Coultas to score the go-ahead run.

Wilson Batista followed with a single to right that scored Gomez for a 6-4 lead, also knocking Patton out of the game. Dante Brinkley greeted Garret Murdy with a single to send Batista to third and Grant Psomas followed with a sacrifice fly for a 7-4 advantage.

Jesus Flores ripped a double to score Brinkley and then tallied the final run of the inning, going to third on a wild pitch and coming in when Watts reached on an error by Lexington second baseman Jonny Ash.

Psomas smashed a two-run homer in the first inning, his 15th, and finished with three RBI.

"This was huge for us tonight," said Psomas. "With this atmosphere, it was an advantage to play at home tonight."

Watts, who has made the most of his playing time, has driven in 35 runs on 45 hits.

"We played well in the first half. ... This was so huge for us tonight," said Watts. "We were all pumped up. I'm glad I have the opportunity to play, and I have to produce runs."

Coming back down to earth overnight, the Suns return to action today against Lexington to resume games that strictly count toward the second half.

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