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Suns hope there's no place like home

April 10, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Right about now, the Hagerstown Suns would rather be playing anywhere but Greensboro, N.C.

And if there is a best location in the nation - or the South Atlantic League - that anywhere might as well be Hagerstown.

The Suns open the home half of the season today at 6:35 p.m. when they host Lakewood at Municipal Stadium. Even though Hagerstown is one of the oldest venues in the minors, home is home, no matter of how you look at it.

Hagerstown returns after suffering through a season-opening sweep by the Grasshoppers, dropping the first three decisions via walkoff home runs by Greensboro's Gaby Sanchez. But the 0-4 record isn't an overall reflection of how the Suns have played.

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"We have been losing some bang-bang games," said Suns manager Frank Cacciatore before Sunday's game. "We have played well. (Sanchez) has been hot. It's only three games into the season."

Hagerstown has owned the first six innings of each game this season, but have faltered down the stretch. The Suns outscored Greensboro 17-11 in the first two-thirds of the four games, despite being outscored 31-20 overall. The Grasshoppers did 61 percent of their scoring in their final nine outs.

"I'd like to see us establish something," Cacciatore said. "We've been trying to get everyone in to get their feet wet. It comes down to getting it done when the game is on the line."

Despite sitting in last place - a sharp contrast to last season when the Suns won their first seven games - Cacciatore is far from upset at Hagerstown's start heading into the opener.

The best example - even though it wasn't the most successful one - came Saturday. Hagerstown led 6-3 until Greensboro scored three runs in the bottom of the eight to tie the score.

The Suns regained the lead with a run in the ninth on first baseman Nick Evans' RBI single, only to lose the game on Sanchez's third-straight game-winning home run in the bottom of the inning.

"(We) played with great composure in Saturday's game," Cacciatore said. "We led, they tied and we came back and took the lead. They have shown a lot of heart and a lot of tenacity. It has been birth by fire. For a lot of them, it is their first time out and looking up to see 10,000 fans. There has been great execution and they have played well."

Offensively, the Suns have been led by Evans, who is hitting .438 with two home runs and six RBI and carries a four-game hitting streak. Matt Anderson is hitting .400 in his two starts.

Both Evans and Anderson hit home runs last Tuesday in the Suns' 15-1 exhibition win over Hagerstown Community College in their first appearance at Municipal Stadium.

"No matter where you play, you have to keep the same approach," Evans said about hitting at home. "There's a short wall in right field and left field is a graveyard. You have to be consistent so you don't pull off the ball."

The Suns will start right-hander Sal Aguilar in the home opener against Lakewood's Maximo De La Cruz. Aguilar was 5-0 with a 2.24 ERA in 2005 at Brooklyn.

Lakewood enters the series also carrying a 0-4 record after enduring a sweep at Lexington.

The game presents the perfect scenerio for Hagerstown to get out of the blocks - opening at home against the Northern Division's only other winless team.

"It will be good to get back home," Cacciatore said. "It won't be the same as opening day. We will have four games under our belts and know we know what it is all about. The first game at home will have some anticipation, but we are ready to go. ... We just have to be able to close things out."

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