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Mihalics reaches new heights with game-winning RBI

August 19, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Suns gave Joe Mihalics a lift on Thursday.

It was only fair. After all, the shortstop gave his team a lift just seconds earlier.

Mihalics was ceremonially carried off the field in jest after delivering a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th to carry Hagerstown to a 5-4 victory and a four-game sweep of the Hickory Crawdads.

It was almost fitting. The winning fly might have traveled all of 150 feet to left field, leaving some drama as Jim Burt sprinted to the plate to end the game. Mahalics hit Jean Garavito's first pitch after he walked Rafael Arroyo on five pitches to load the bases.

"Those guys are goofballs," Mahalics said after his impromptu ride. "It was nice to get. I was looking for a fastball because I had to lift it. My only goal was to lift the ball. It was basic baseball."

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It was basically what the Suns needed to pull out what became a see-saw game.

But even with Mahalics doing his job, manager Gene Richards pushed all of the Suns' chips into the pot to put an end to the game.

"It wasn't the deepest sacrifice fly, but it doesn't matter as long as it worked," Richards said. "I don't think the left fielder (Brett Holmes) thought we were going to run on that one. It was a gamble and if we were out at the plate, at least we gave it a try. I think we caught him flat-footed."

Richards took the risk with Burt, who is a competent base runner but doesn't own the most speed on the team.

Burt got off the base on the short fly and rumbled home while the throw home went wide right of the plate.

"He may not be the fastest, but he's one of the guys who hustles," Richards said. "He has a lot of instincts and desire. He gives you all he's got all the time."

The victory kept Hagerstown undefeated on the current 10-game homestand as it swept Hickory in four one-run games, two in extra innings. The Suns move to 18-30 in the second half and 60-58 overall, the second best record in the New York Mets organization.

Staying that way may have become a little more difficult, though.

Outfielder Corey Coles left the team before the game to have season-ending shoulder surgery. After the game, infielder Russ Tripplett and Arroyo, a catcher, were promoted to Double-A Norfolk, giving Hagerstown more roster holes to fill as it gets ready for the South Atlantic League playoffs in three weeks.

The Suns jumped to a 2-0 lead against Hickory starter Matt Guillory. Josh Wyrick launched a home run to right-center field in the first and Arroyo's two-out single in he fourth drove in Burt.

Matt Durkin started for the Suns and lasted four innings, allowing four hits while striking out five. Hickory tied the game in the sixth on Neil Walker's two-run home run off Jose Gomez.

The Crawdads took the lead in the seventh as Mike Cockrell greeted Jason Weintraub with a double to left center and took third on Wyrick's bobble. He scored on Dan Schwartzbauer's single.

The Suns regained the lead in the seventh by loading the bases with consecutive singles by Mihalics, Matt Fisher and Carlos Gomez off reliever Kyle Pearson. Wyrick drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game and Ambiorix Concepcion gave Hagerstown the 4-3 lead with a broken-bat groundout to short.

Marcelo Perez (1-5), who won the game in relief, allowed the tying run in the ninth when Wannell Macia hit Hickory's third single of the inning. Perez coaxed a double play from Mike Hofius to preserve the tie and set up the 10th.

"We have to play small ball to win," said Mahalics, who was the Mets' 34th pick in this year's draft. "We aren't going to hit a lot of big home runs. And we aren't going to score 10 runs every game. It just magnifies the types of things we have to do to win."

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