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Suns fill order with Piazza's slice

May 01, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

It's starting to look like these situations are meant to be for the Mets-to-be.

The Hagerstown Suns have made a habit of trailing heading into the ninth inning and finding some way, somehow, to pull out games in the end.

The latest example came Sunday when Tony Piazza ripped an RBI single just inside the third-base bag to bring home Jonel Pacheco with the winning run to complete a two-run rally and a 5-4 comeback victory over the Delmarva Shorebirds.

"No, I can never get tired of this," said Suns manager Frank Cacciatore of the Suns' ability for the late rally. "It's something you can't coach. You try to show them to keep it close so you have a chance in the end."

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The Suns have won 10 times this season, with nine of the victories coming in one-run games. They have pulled the game out in the final at-bat seven times, including six at Municipal Stadium.

It is turning the Suns into adrenaline junkies, with Piazza becoming the latest hero.

"When you come to the dugout in the last inning and you are way down the order, you hope to get the chance to bat with the game on the line," he said.

His time came Sunday.

Piazza, who just joined the Suns while they were in Lakewood last week, was slotted as fifth to hit in the ninth with Hagerstown trailing, 4-3.

Leivi Ventura eliminated the deficit on Jim Hoey's first pitch of the ninth, blasting it over the left-field wall for his third home run of the season and the tie game.

Pacheco followed with a double to left and moved to third on Elvis Cruz's sacrifice bunt down the first-base line. The Shorebirds elected to intentionally walk left-hand hitting Matt Anderson to get to right-handed Piazza.

Piazza outbattled Hoey, first falling behind with a 1-2 count before taking a ball and fouling off the next two pitches. On the seventh pitch, he turned on Hoey's inside pitch and ripped a sinking liner that bounced even with the inside of third base and down the line for the winning RBI.

"One thing I have been trying to work on is sitting back with two strikes and fight off as many pitches as I can," Piazza said. "I didn't hit the ball all that great, but it got it done."

Hit well or not, it was an uplifting hit for the Suns.

Hagerstown was coming off a 7-0 loss Saturday and trailed 3-0 until producing a three-run rally in the sixth.

Delmarva countered with Rafael Rodriguez's solo home run - his first homer and first RBI of the season - to left off German Marte to regain a 4-3 lead, a shot which could have broken Hagerstown's back.

Instead, it started a line for heroes, with Ventura, Cruz and Piazza leading the way.

"That was a tremendous at-bat for Piazza," Cacciatore said. "He comes in and he battles his butt off. He almost hit the ball out the at-bat before and that might have given him confidence in that last at-bat. An at-bat like that might not just help Piazza, it might help the whole team. It might help them realize they are quicker than they think."

Hagerstown starter Sal Aguilar and Delmarva's David Hernandez cruised through the first half of the game. Aguilar allowed two hits - both to Zach Davis, the second an RBI single in the fifth - and an unearned run in the first five innings while Hernandez only allowed two hits.

Aguilar allowed a two-out single to Ryan Finan before Brandon Snyder unloaded a home run over the center field wall for the 3-0 lead.

"Aguilar had another good outing," Cacciatore said. "He was one pitch - one strike - away from getting out of there and he got a pitch up."

The Suns climbed back into the game in the sixth when Hernandez hit Piazza to open the sixth. After Hector Pellot reached on third baseman Rob Marconi's fielding error, Jose Castro advance the runners by laying down a sacrifice bunt while trying to defend himself from a high, inside fastball.

Jonathan Sanchez got the Suns on the scoreboard with a RBI single to right that Arturo Rivas misplayed to allow two runs. After a Nick Evans single, Ventura hit a blooper to short right field to score Sanchez, but Evans was eliminated on a fielder's choice.

Marcello Perez (2-0) pitched the ninth inning and got the win for the Suns.

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