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Suns even up SAL title series

September 14, 2005|By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Ambiorix Concepcion learned a lesson on Tuesday.

If you're planning to make an impression, it's always easier if you are carrying a bat.

And just for backup, Kyle Brown came fully armed.

The Hagerstown Suns rolled out the full artillery in a near do-or-die situation for a gritty 5-3 victory over Kannapolis to even the best-of-5 South Atlantic League Championship series at one game apiece before 913 fans in the final game of the season at Municipal Stadium.

Concepcion made up for a third-inning throw to the plate that didn't go his way with a clutch two-out RBI single in the bottom of the inning to help stake the Suns to a 3-1 lead. Brown chipped in with a successful throw to the plate in the same third inning before slapping a two-out single in the eighth for the insurance run to seal the victory for Hagerstown before heading to Kannapolis (N.C.), possibly for the final three games of the series.

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The win was reminiscent of last week's SAL North Division series with Delmarva when Hagerstown lost the opener and came back to play an impressive second game en route to winning the three-game series and advancing to the finals.

"That is what I hoped would occur," Suns manager Gene Richards said. "I hoped they would respond after getting rid of the first-game jitters (Monday). They went out there and battled."

And it was almost a fitting fight to end what the Suns were calling the Battlefield Orange segment of the season.

After taking a 1-0 lead in the first, the Intimidators threatened to grab a huge lead in the third and a commanding lead in the series.

Boomer Berry led off with a walk off Suns starter Jose Sanchez and took second on a groundout. Sean Smith followed by slapping a single to left that Brown fielded and fired home. The throw was up the third base line, which moved catcher Jesus Flores closer to Berry, who flew backward after colliding with Flores while trying to get to the plate.

"I have to give a lot of credit to AC (Concepcion)," Brown said. "I had my head down to make the play and he directed me. We have been talking more in the outfield. When I was making the play, he yelled 'He's going,' and I made the throw."

Smith took second on the throw and tried for home on Josh Hansen's single to center. This time, Concepcion came up throwing, but his attempt forced Flores to jump and Hansen disputably slid under the tag to tie the score at 1-1.

The Suns turned the tables on Kannapolis starter Adam Russell in the third when Brown led off with a push bunt single down the first base line. He moved to second on a one-out grounder to set up for Concepcion.

Concepcion, who is playing his best baseball of the season, slapped a shot up the middle to score Brown. Concepcion stole second and scored on Grant Psomas' single for the 3-1 lead.

"I got a little mad at myself because I knew if I would have got the throw down, I would have had him easily," Concepcion said. "When I got to the dugout, I got mad to push myself, but when I got up, I got control of my emotions. I didn't want something big, I wanted a little hit to help my team. I wanted to make them pay for that throw."

The early two-run lead provided a huge comfort zone for Sanchez, who may have pitched his best game of the second half. The right-hander was 9-0 in the first half, but finished the season at 11-5.

Sanchez gave the Suns six innings of one-run, six-hit pitching that had the Intimidators reaching for groundballs and weak popups.

"The pitching was outstanding," Richards said. "I think Sanchez threw like he did at the beginning of the season for us. He was dominant and took the ball and threw strikes. Everything he did was like first-half action."

Hagerstown got their first run in the first when Dante Brinkley led off with a double, took third on a Jose Coronado sacrifice bunt and scored on Concepcion's sacrifice fly to right.

The Suns chased Russell in the fifth, starting when Brinkley reached on a bad-hop single to second. He took second when Concepcion reached on a two-out fielding error by second baseman Chris Getz and later scored when Flores drew a bases-loaded walk.

Kannapolis got back in the game with two unearned runs off Edgar Alfonzo in the seventh, which came on a two-out, two-run single by Hansen.

Brown gave Hagerstown the insurance run with a two-out single in the eighth to bring home Russ Triplett. Marcelo Perez came on to pitch the ninth, putting Kannapolis away in order, with the help of two strikeouts.

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