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Suns' Castro sticks with it, sticks it to Power

April 21, 2006|by CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

For eight innings Thursday night, Hagerstown shortstop Jose Castro had a rather forgettable night. The 19-year-old made three errors and, although he scored twice, he was hitless.

Then came the ninth inning, which on Thursday was Castro's inning and, as of late, has been the Suns' inning.

Castro made a pair of web gems worthy of a highlight reel in the top of the ninth and scored the game-winning run on a play worthy of a blooper reel in the bottom of the inning to give the Suns a 6-5 victory.

"I had a rough time early, but my concentration level was there," said Castro.

Castro scored the winning run in dramatic fashion. Elvis Cruz homered with two outs to tie the game at 5-5 and Castro followed with a bunt single to the right side of the infield, narrowly beating the throw by second baseman Kenny Holmberg.

Hector Pellot followed and lined a two-strike pitch to left-center field. Castro rolled around second and headed for third as West Virginia centerfielder Darren Ford mishandled the ball. Castro, unaware of the outfield error, slid head-first into third base.

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"I saw the centerfielder mishandle the ball and I said here we go and waved Castro around," said Suns coach Frank Cacciatore. "Then, of course, I see him slide and he looks up and sees me waving. He got up and went home."

Castro quickly got to his feet and sprinted toward home. He was barely halfway to the plate when Ford fired the throw, but it was not cut off and went wide of the plate, allowing Castro to slide in safely.

"I realized later on that Frank wanted me to go home," Castro said. "I was 100 percent I would make it."

Castro capped the night by scoring the game-winning run, but the plays he made in the field in the top of the ninth may have been more valuable.

Ford led off with a double to right and moved to third on Jonel Pacheco's fielding error. With the runner on third, Castro made a leaping catch of a line drive by Holmberg that would have scored Ford and likely put Holmberg in scoring position.

Later in the ninth, with the bases loaded and the game tied at 4-4, Castro made a diving snag of a ground ball and alertly tagged the runner heading to third for the second out. He nearly turned it into an inning-ending double play, but the throw was a split-second late. Still, instead of a two- or three-run lead, the Power led by just one at 5-4.

"Obviously you've got to give a lot of credit to Jose Castro after making a couple of errors. It's very difficult to sit and analyze when you're not out there, but hopefully this will be a big lesson for him," Cacciatore said. "He didn't let it get to him and he turned out to be our go-to hero."

Hagerstown (7-7) needed Castro to come up big late after squandering an early lead. The Suns scored three runs on just two hits in the first inning, thanks to three walks and a hit batter by West Virginia starter Ryan Marion. The Suns tacked on another run in the second to go ahead, 4-0.

Marion was pulled in the third in favor of Dave Welch, who held Hagerstown scoreless on one hit over four innings. Meanwhile, the errors began to multiply for the Suns. Castro misplayed a pair of ground balls in the sixth that led to two unearned runs against Hagerstown starter Sal Aguilar to make it 4-2.

West Virginia (6-8) scored another unearned run in the seventh and finally took the lead in the ninth after the Suns made their fifth error of the night.

Suns starter Sal Aguilar scattered seven hits and struck out two in six innings in a no-decision. Marcelo Perez (1-0) got the win after escaping the jam in the ninth with little harm done.

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