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HCC gets its Municipal moment tonight

April 04, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

The Hagerstown Suns and Hagerstown Community College baseball teams will cash in sure bets tonight.

It's the best of all worlds for the Suns and Hawks. It will be a maximum payoff for a very small investment when the two square off in an exhibition game beginning at 6:35 p.m. at Municipal Stadium.

"I told the guys that this is the only game we have all season long that the score doesn't matter," HCC coach Scott Jennings said. "It will only last for one night and it won't count on our record, but the memories will last forever."

All proceeds from the advance ticket sales benefit the HCC general scholarship fund. Tickets are $5 for the game, which will last a minimum of seven innings.

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For HCC, the game is a chance to see how the other half lives. The junior college players will be facing players on the grassroots level of professional baseball - some are the same ages as many of the Hawks' players.

For the Suns, it is a dress rehearsal for the regular season. It will be the first time Hagerstown will play at Municipal Stadium, their home for 70 games during the South Atlantic League season, which starts Thursday in Greensboro, N.C. It will be a chance to get a feel for the surroundings that Suns' players will call home.

"I think this game is real big for us," Suns manager Frank Cacciatore said. "It's a chance for us to keep playing, but it doesn't matter to our record. One concern for me is to get the team under the lights so they can see the surroundings and get used to them. Some places the light towers are higher than the others, so they have to get used to that."

There were many lessons learned in last year's 15-1 Suns' victory. First and foremost, the game is the same, it's the pace that is different.

"I think this is great and it shows my guys what it takes and the difference in the levels of play. The biggest thing I noticed last season was the speed of the game," Jennings said. "It wasn't the velocity of the pitches, the game moved along faster. All the Suns' players were bigger and stronger."

The biggest example came in the first inning. Lowell Coates tried to score from second on a single. He hit third and turned for home and was about a third of the way down the line when Suns center fielder Ambiorix Concepcion scooped the ball and threw home, pegging the out at the plate.

"In our league, we scored that run easily," Jennings said. "He didn't slow down running, but he didn't anticipate that kind of throw. I didn't anticipate it either in the coaching box. It showed (the Hawks) that they had a way to come."

It will be the final tuneup for the Suns and it comes in vastly different surroundings than in sunny Florida. Hagerstown will be unveiling its roster, which features three teenage players starting in the middle of the defense.

"I remember junior college competition very well," Cacciatore said. "I know some of the guys we have could be playing junior college ball. It gives them a chance to get some exposure and it shows their players where they may be able to play next year. It's just a good chance for us to play and to keep going."

Tonight will be a coming out party of sorts for Suns center fielder Fernando Martinez, a 17-year-old who is a highly regarded new prospect in the New York Mets system. Hector Pellot, 19, is slotted to start at second while Jose Castro, 18, will start at short.

HCC will feature right fielder Matt Ridenour, a North Hagerstown graduate who is hitting .373 after transferring in from Southeast Louisiana.

Two other North grads, Matt Murray and Kyle Robinson will also start. Murray, a first baseman, is hitting .355 and leads HCC with 21 RBI while Robinson is hitting .407 while playing third. Pitcher Andy Taylor of Williamsport is 3-0.

"Our guys have been looking forward to this," Jennings said. "The sophomores have been through it once, so they have a better understanding of what it's all about. We come into the game with no notion of playing on the same level with the Suns, but at least one night we'll be on the same field."

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