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To err is deja vu for Suns

September 13, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

There was something familiar about the way the Hagerstown Suns played on Monday.

Manager Gene Richards felt like he saw this all before. It was the Suns committing errors, not hitting, not pitching very well and giving up a demoralizing big inning.

Watching it from the dugout, Richards could call it his deja view.

Hagerstown sputtered and stalled - just like it did last Wednesday in the South Atlantic League North Division playoff opener at Delmarva. This time, the stakes were higher as the Suns allowed an error-filled sixth inning to get the best of them for five runs and an 8-2 Kannapolis victory in Game 1 of the best-of-5 SAL Championship series.

"That was the same way," Richards said. "We didn't play well at Delmarva in that first game. We were fine for the first five innings, but we couldn't make any decent plays in that inning."

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The Suns committed three errors in the sixth, paving the way for a five-run inning - four unearned - to turn the Intimidators' 2-1 nailbiter into a comfy 7-1 advantage.

It started when Clint King reached on a leadoff throwing error by first baseman Jim Burt to pitcher Jeff Landing on an excuse-me roller. David Cook followed with his first of two home runs to left field.

The problems grew from there when third baseman Grant Psomas tried to get a double play out of a sacrifice attempt. Reliever Joe Serfass delivered the throw off Ryan McCarthy's bunt attempt, but Psomas' throw to first went wide.

The fate was sealed when Boomer Berry, the next batter, laid down a suicide squeeze bunt that Serfass misplayed to create the third run of the inning. Christopher Getz added an RBI double and Josh Hanson had a sacrifice fly. The Intimidators sent 10 hitters to the plate, probably four more than should have hit.

"Landing gave us five great innings, but in the sixth a mistake on defense got a guy on and they took charge from there," Richards said. "The floodgates opened."

The extra support made Kannapolis starter Carlos Torres all the tougher. Hagerstown got all their hits off the right hander in the first four innings and went AWOL after that. Torres lasted eight innings, facing only 17 batters after allowing Ambiorix Concepcion's leadoff single in the fourth. He allowed one run on the three hits while walking three, hitting one and striking out six.

"(Torres) was very economical with his pitches," Richards said. "We had him for 90 heading into the eighth inning. We hit him early, but he settled down and he went through Hagerstown like (Civil War General) Sherman."

Kannapolis, which advanced to the finals by sweeping Charleston in the South Division series, continued to rely on its pitching to get the job done. The Intimidators only had two extra-base hits in the 20 they collected against Charleston. But for the season, they had a 3.57 team ERA, one-third of a run better than the Suns.

"We knew coming into this series, it was going to come down to pitching," Richards said. "They only averaged like six hits a game. They turned the tables on us. A lot of times, you get complacent after you win. I say the other guys are going to roll over. Now we have to suck it up."

Kannapolis took a 1-0 lead on Landing in the second when Bernie Gonzalez hit a one-out single, took second on a grounder and scored on McCarthy's single to right. The Suns forged a tie in the third when Burt led off with a double, took third on Matt Fisher's sacrifice bunt and scored on Dante Brinkley's single.

The Intimidators used small ball in the fifth when Berry was hit by a pitch, moved to second on Getz's sacrifice bunt and scored on Sean Smith's double for the 2-1 lead.

Landing lasted the first three batters in the sixth. He allowed five runs (three earned) on eight hits in his first start for the Suns in 2 1/2 months.

The two teams traded home runs to end the scoring.

Cook led off the seventh with another blast to left, this time off of Matt Durkin. Psomas ripped a solo shot to right off reliever Matt Zaleski in the ninth.

The Suns will send Jose Sanchez to the mound today for Game 2, hoping for the best and preparing for anything.

"Sanchez says he's ready to go in there and give us a good game," Richards said. "In a short series, you go with who you can. If he has trouble, we have nine guys in the bullpen who are ready. We have to look at it like we don't have too many tomorrows left."

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