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Opponents outgunning Suns with own weapons

August 14, 2005|By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Suns are coming out with their hands up.

It seems like it's the only thing the Suns can do. The opposition has manager Gene Richards' gun and has Hagerstown just where they want them.

It's a pop gun, but a gun nonetheless.

When the Suns are fully armed, Richards loves to run the bases, put on hit-and-run plays, steal bases and bunt the ball, basically to cause havoc among the opposition.

But now, those opponents are taking Richards' style and using it against him.

"That's the way I love to play," Richards said. "Now it's being used against us and I don't know how to combat it."

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Mid-season promotions by the Mets have left the Suns as a shadow of their original selves. Most of the power hitting has been promoted to St. Lucie, leaving Hagerstown to scratch and scramble for runs in the second half.

The "small ball" style worked for awhile, but the Suns haven't been able to keep games close enough to be able to pull out victories. Usually, if the opponent scores more than four runs, one-run rallies aren't enough to overcome the deficit.

"We don't have the ability to string two and three hits together," Richards said. "We only have four or five guys left on the team that we had at the beginning of the season. That hurts the continuity, but we have to be able to adjust."

The one-run style doesn't leave Hagerstown much margin for error. Everything has to be played and executed precisely to be successful.

But the Suns have hurt themselves with errors and walks while running themselves out of possible run-scoring innings with ill-advised steal attempts.

"As a team, when you score and then you give it back right away, it kills you," Richards said. "Especially, when as a team, you continue to put (opposing) guys on base. We aren't getting walks, but they do."

It has given a look that borders on desperation as the second half has turned into a lost cause. The Suns have a berth in the playoffs, but look far from a title contender. After finishing 14 games over .500 in the first half, the Suns are now under .500 for the season.

"We don't do home runs and we don't have the ability to come up with big innings," Richards said. "With the team we got right now, we have got to do the little things."




Suns spots


· Familiar names dot the Suns, but only a few have been in Hagerstown since Day One - without being injured or sent away to other teams or rehabilitation.

There are pitchers Michael Devaney, Marcelo Perez and Jose Sanchez and outfielders Corey Coles and Ambiorix Concepcion.

Infielders Mike Carp and Ryan Coultas have been members of the Suns for the entire 2005 season, but both are currently injured.

Carp was sent home for a couple of weeks to rest and may be back to play again at the end of the month. He was hit with a pitch on Aug. 3. An MRI found an old injury on his throwing hand stemming from being hit earlier in the season, forcing him on the disabled list.

Coultas, who was one of the hottest hitting Suns in the second half, suffered a broken left wrist when he was hit by a pitch on Aug. 6 in Lexington and is now out for the rest of the season.

The injury made sure Hagerstown would be using an entirely new infield compared to the one they started the season with on April 7's season opener.

· Five of the top six hitters on St. Lucie are former Hagerstown Suns starters.

Catcher Aaron Hathaway is leading the Mets' high Single-A team with a .347 batting average in 22 games followed by Grant Psomas, now listed as a shortstop, is hitting .333, Derran Watts is hitting .333 and Wilson Batista is hitting .300 with four home runs to top St. Lucie's offense. Dante Brinkley is sixth with a .266 average.




Milestones


· Activated - Blake Eager returns off the disabled list and will start on Monday against Hickory.

· Released - After Friday's game, reliever Bo Bowman was released to make room to add Eager to the roster.

· Suns among South Atlantic League leaders:

Mike Carp: Home runs: eighth (19) Leader: Joseph Koshansky, Ashville, 34.

Carlos Gomez: Stolen bases: first (53).

Ambiorix Concepcion: Stolen bases: eighth (28)

Grant Psomas: On-base percentage: seventh (.404). Leader: Doug Gredvig, Lakewood, .419;

Slugging percentage: seventh (.547), Leader: Hunter Pence, Lexington, .652.; Bases on balls: tied sixth (56). Leader: Travis Denker, Columbus, 67.

Gabriel Hernandez: ERA: third (2.43); Leader: Ray Liotta, Kannapolis, 2.26; Strikeouts: 10th (99); Leader: Luis Ramirez, Delmarva, 136.

Jose Sanchez: Wins: first (11).

Carlos Muniz: Saves: tied eighth (14); Leader: Chris Mobley, Greensboro, 29.

Michael Devaney: Strikeouts: ninth (102); Complete games: tied third (2); Leader: Maximoino De La Cruz, Lakewood, 5.




The week ahead


After taking today off, the Suns return to Municipal Stadium for their longest homestand of the season - 10 games.

It starts Monday with a four-game set with Hickory (Pirates) followed by four games with Asheville (Rockies) beginning on Friday. It finishes next week with a two-game set against Lexington.

The week will feature the Suns Baseball Camp on Tuesday through Thursday. Fireworks will follow Friday's game.

On Saturday, 25th anniversary season silver baseballs will be given to the first 1,000 fans.




Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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