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Suns go back to basics to get best of Laffey, Captains

August 04, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

For a lack of better terms, Matt Fisher was the Hagerstown Suns' sacrifice to the victory gods on Wednesday.

There was no terror in his eyes. In fact, he was all right with it.

"When you bat in that spot, I have to do what (manager Gene Richards) asks for me to do."

Fisher was asked to sacrifice himself with bunts twice as the Suns unveiled a revamped style of play against Lake County. Hagerstown used six bunts to keep it small and produce four runs in a 5-0 Camp Day matinee victory over the Captains and Cumberland, Md., native Aaron Laffey.

Fisher's first bunt moved Ryan Coultas into scoring position in the third inning and eventually set up a double steal with Carlos Gomez for the Suns' first run. The second bunt, in the seventh inning, pushed Lake County into a comedy of errors to allow Coultas to score from first and put Fisher in position to score the fifth and final run of the game on Gomez's suicide squeeze.

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"The way things are going and the way we are looking is to do anything possible to get the runner over to score a run," Fisher said. "In the first half, they were playing American League baseball. Now we are playing more like the National League."

For Richards, it was a throwback to the way he played back when he was with the San Diego Padres. But it was also an easier style to help the struggling Suns (54-50, 12-22) find some success.

"We had to do something," Richards said. "If you have been watching us for the last month or so, we haven't been able to do much. I just said we were going to play basic baseball and play for one run instead of three or four. You could see a lot a smiles on the guys' faces because what they were doing was successful."

Most of the Suns' "big" hits traveled all of 45 feet. The constant threat of the bunt forced Lake County to play closer to the plate and put more pressure on Laffey to field the ball after pitching it.

Laffey (7-5), a left-handed nemesis of the Suns, went six innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits. The Suns' short game kept him trapped.

Meanwhile, Suns starter Orlando Rengel (2-1) set the tone with a solid pitching performance to keep it a situation where one run was meaningful. Rengel, who is in his second stint with the Suns, allowed two hits in six innings while striking out seven.

"We had tremendous pitching today and were able to play for one run at a time," Richards said. "A lot of times we were able to get in situations where the style of play presented itself. When (Rengel) first got here, we didn't think he was ready for this level. But now, he's come back and showed that he could do it here."

Besides Fisher, Ambiorix Concepcion and Derran Watts were key components to the victory. Concepcion had two leadoff doubles - a hustle hit in the fourth and a shot to the center-field wall in the sixth - and Watts drove him home with singles both times, the second time giving Hagerstown a 3-0 lead.

The Suns capped the game in the eighth against Lake County reliever Brandon Rickert. Coultas singled to left and headed to second on Fisher's bunt. Rickert fell while trying to field the ball and threw it past first baseman Fernando Pacheco.

Coultas rounded the bases to score and Fisher ended up on third before Gomez's one-out squeeze bunt.

Fisher, Gomez, Russ Triplett and Mike Carp each laid down sacrifice bunts while Fisher and Rafael Arroyo bunted for hits. The Suns finished with nine hits, topped by Gomez, Concepcion and Watts with two each.

"This team has to be more fundamentally sound," Richards said. "By going back to this style of play, we are bring them back down to basics."

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