Suns come home with backs to the wall

September 09, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

Paul "Bear" Bryant had specific instructions for how his Alabama players should act after scoring a touchdown.

"Act like you've been there before and act like you'll be there again," he said.

The Hagerstown Suns might have an idea of what the ol' Bear meant.

The Suns have their backs to the wall after going down 1-0 to Delmarva in the best-of-3 South Atlantic League North Division playoff series. In fact, the 2005 season could end or live for at least one more day after Game 2 today at Municipal Stadium.

But it's nothing the Suns haven't experienced before.

Hagerstown squandered a lead in the first half and was forced to win its way into the playoffs with a one-game playoff against Lexington. The Suns beat the odds - and the best left-handed pitcher in the league in Troy Patton - to get to where they are today.


"Yes, we are in a position that we would love not to be in," Hagerstown manager Gene Richards said. "But we are in it and it's not like we haven't faced it before."

But this time, there is a whole lot more riding on it.

The Suns are a far different team than they were when they faced Lexington. Instead of a team driven by power and speed, Hagerstown is banking largely on speed which means the lower the score, the better.

The Suns will have to depend on the pitching of Michael Devaney, Hagerstown's best pitcher in the second half, and their defense to keep things close.

The problem is, the defense didn't come through in Game 1.

The Suns committed four errors in Wednesday's 13-3 loss to put themselves in the do-or-die situation.

Jose Coronado threw away the first ground ball of the game to start a rally of three unearned runs off Hagerstown starter Jose Sanchez.

Jim Burt mishandled a ball to lead off the fifth inning as the Suns committed three errors while the Shorebirds scored seven times to all but seal the game.

"We did a lot of things that went against us," Richards said. "Part of it was nerves and part of it was being in a playoff game. Hagerstown played poorly, but Delmarva didn't play well and the officials didn't do that well. Still, we didn't play well and it hurt us more."

In a perfect world, the Suns will be able to keep the game in a four-run window - either leading by or trailing by two - to allow them to play the hit-and-run, steal-and-bunt game they have employed in the second half.

"It's not a case of getting the early lead as much as it is staying close," Richards said. "If we stay close, we can play our game. The other team has the sticks that can cause an explosion. It's not that we can't do it, but we have to play for one-, two-, and three-run innings. And if we stay close, we can do that."

The Suns are in a familiar place, but they have no time to single out heroes. It's win or go home for Hagerstown.

"It's not a case of having to lean on any players," Richards said. "If we all go out and do what we are supposed to do, I can accept anything that happens."

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