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Suns make sure playoff series isn't for 'Birds

September 10, 2005|By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

It there was ever a time to become possessive, Mike Devaney owned it.

Hagerstown's starting pitcher knew the Delmarva Shorebirds had something the Suns desperately wanted - No, make that desperately needed - and he was about to go out and get it.

"They have had the momentum from the beginning," Devaney said. "The first inning was big. I wanted to go 1-2-3 or get out without getting runs so we could go in and take it."

Devaney did his part. In fact, he wasn't subtle about it. He just smacked the Shorebirds in the nose.

Devaney shut down Delmarva's big-swinging offense on two runs over five innings while Hagerstown's defense played a flawless game Friday for a 7-4 victory over the Shorebirds to knot the South Atlantic League's North Division best-of-3 playoff series at one game each.

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The deciding game will be played today at 7:05 p.m. at Municipal Stadium for a berth in SAL finals against Kannapolis.

"I threw a lot of ground balls today," Devaney said. "The defense played well behind me, but they have played well behind me all year."

Playing behind anyone else was a bigger ordeal for the Suns, if Wednesday's opener were any indication. Hagerstown committed four costly errors to open up two big innings for Delmarva. On Friday, the tables were turned as Delmarva committed six huge errors to prolong the destruction.

"The kids were loose," Suns manager Gene Richards said. "They were loose in the clubhouse and in the game."

The whole package tied together allowed the Suns to play the "small ball" style they needed to keep the ultimate pressure on Delmarva's defense and six Shorebirds pitchers.

Right fielder Carlos Gomez was a sparkplug in the leadoff spot with two triples to set up a pair of rallies which allowed the Suns to take a comfortable 5-1 lead after four innings.

Jose Coronado drove him in each time with two of his three hits while Jim Burt added two hits and two RBI. But Gomez pulled up lame while trying to leg out an eighth-inning bunt and was forced to leave the game.

"(Gomez) showed a lot of energy," Richards said. "A lot of that was lacking the other day. He was a sparkplug. He did something to his hamstring. He said he's OK, but he's day to day."

But it all came back to Devaney, who kept Delmarva's explosive offense in check, despite allowing a second-inning solo home run to Juan Gutierrez. The only other trouble he had came in the fifth when he allowed a leadoff triple to Arturo Rivas, who scored on Pete Shier's sacrifice fly.

"The difference today was Mike," Richards said. "That was a mature team he was facing today and he staved off their offense and stayed away from the onslaught. He did a good job, but the only thing I questioned was when we had a good lead, he got a little soft. That showed me he was a little tired and we got him out."

After Gutierrez hit his first of two homers to give Delmarva the 1-0 lead, the Suns came back immediately when Russ Triplett led off with a double off Delmarva starter Carlos Perez. He took third on Kyle Brown's sacrifice bunt and scored on Burt's single to tie the game.

Hagerstown chased Perez in the third as Gomez led off with a triple down the left field line and scored on Coronado's single for the lead. The Suns loaded the bases and scored on a Jesus Flores single and Triplett's sacrifice fly.

Devaney made sure the Suns had the momentum by shutting out Delmarva in the third and set the tone that reliever Joe Serfass continued in his three innings of work.

"Serfass came in and quieted everybody down," Richards said.

Gomez led off the fourth with his second triple before scoring on Coronado's grounder for the four-run lead.

Brown reached on second baseman Paco Figueroa's error in the seventh and scored on Burt's grounder, and Coronado doubled and scored on Grant Psomas' single in the eighth to close Hagerstown's scoring. Delmarva got an RBI single by Gary Cates in the eighth and Gutierrez's second home run, this one off Marcelo Perez, in the ninth.

"In must-win games, you have to focus harder," Devaney said. "I don't want to be the reason everyone goes home. I wanted to do my job and let all the other guys do theirs."

They did ... and now the Suns have the momentum knowing they aren't going home.

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