'These' Suns finishing what 'those' Suns started

September 15, 2005|By BOB PARASILITI

They are the OTHER Hagerstown Suns ? the team that was placed here after most of the first-half stars were promoted up the New York Mets' food chain.

They are the group who slogged through a rough second half, finishing 29-38 and in last place in the South Atlantic League's North Division.

And, oh yeah, these Suns are the ones who are playing for the South Atlantic League Championship.

"This team has been put in this situation," Suns outfielder Kyle Brown said. "We don't have the team that they had here in the first half, but this team is jelling right now and coming together."


Hagerstown's "second team" is two steps away from winning the town's second minor league title in the 25 years of the franchise's modern era after posting a 5-3 victory over Kannapolis to even the best-of-5 championship series at one game apiece in this year's final home game at Municipal Stadium.

Now, the Suns (Part II) head to North Carolina to finish the job started by the original team. The championship series continues tonight at 7:05 in what has become a best-of-3 series.

"These guys are battling," Suns manager Gene Richards said. "They may never get an opportunity like this again. If we would have lost this game (Tuesday), they might be holding their heads heading to Kannapolis. But we won, so they have no reason. They can go in there and battle."

The word "battle" sums up the fight the Suns have conjured up to make a run at the championship. After scuffling to find an identity for the first two months of the second half, the Suns started to pull it all together in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Hagerstown turned error-prone in the North Division opener with Delmarva, committing four errors in a 13-3 loss, but came back to sweep the final two games at home to move on. The Suns repeated the pattern in the first two games of this series, looking defensively shoddy in Monday's 8-2 loss before bouncing back on Tuesday.

Tonight, the Suns will send Michael Devaney ? their best pitcher in the second half ? to the mound to try and take pivotal Game 3 and a 2-1 lead.

"Right now, it looks good for us to be sending him out there," Richards said. "But you don't know how he's going to react when he gets there. He will be relaxed, I think though, and will do a good job."

Tuesday's turnaround proved at least to Richards that the Suns' new breed might be worthy of winning a title. The young core has first-half heroes Grant Psomas and Dante Brinkley back on the roster, while Russ Triplett and Rafael Arroyo, who both received some experience on the Double-A level, are also back for the championship series.

"These guys have come a long way," Richards said. "If they can go out there and reach their capabilities when they play right now, if they can do that, I think we can accept the outcome."

Center fielder Ambiorix Concepcion, the only position player to play the entire season in Hagerstown, is using this as an audition for his future.

"This is not the regular season," Concepcion said after driving in two runs in Tuesday's win. "I did come on late. Now I want to come out and put myself in position. This is the playoffs, but if I want to get to the Major Leagues, I have to come out and do it all the time. We are doing it with two to three thousand screaming people. I have to be able to do this in front of forty, fifty thousand every night. I have to be able to do this every day.

"We know that team now. We got a big win against them and we know what we have to do. We have to put ourselves in the position and we can do it. It's time for me to push myself hard and show what I can do so I can help my teammates win a ring."

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