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Suns get last laugh over Power

June 16, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Frank Cacciatore wasn't speechless, but his response was down to two words.

Hagerstown's manager had just watched the Suns turn the tables on West Virginia. A day earlier, Hagerstown made mistakes and the Power capitalized. On Thursday, it was the Suns' turn.

What do you think, Frank?

"Funny game," he said with a smile.

It was a lot easier to smile on Thursday. The Suns took advantage of West Virginia's three first-inning errors to get the early lead and settled in behind a trio of pitchers for a 4-1 victory to bring the Power's South Atlantic League first-half title hopes to a screeching halt.

"We've been playing very well of late," Cacciatore said. "We didn't play that well last night, but you can't complain. Now, you just hope they'll shake it off and give a solid performance the next day."

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That, the Suns did. Hagerstown played like the team in the playoff hunt instead of West Virginia.

The Suns didn't commit any fielding errors, compared to three on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Power made four, which led to three of Hagerstown's runs.

With the loss, Hagerstown eliminated West Virginia from the title chase in the North Division. The Power had slim hopes, needing to win its last four games while Lexington lost its final four to force a playoff.

"Any time guys compete, it means something," Cacciatore said. "We hope to be in that position in the second half."

Thanks to the two first-inning runs, starter Jeff Landing got all the cushion he needed to hold off the Power. Landing (3-9) held West Virginia - which entered the game as the SAL's best hitting team with a .272 average - to a run on five hits while striking out two.

Brandon Nall turned in a overpowering three innings of relief, striking out six without allowing a hit. Kevin Tomasiewicz nailed down the ninth inning for the save.

Offensively, the Suns did just enough to scratch out the win.

Hagerstown gladly accepted the two runs West Virginia handed out in the first inning. Hector Pellot reached first when second baseman Mike Bell dropped his popup for the first error.

Jonel Pacheco followed with a single off West Virginia starter Dave Welch and Nick Evans reached to load the bases when Bell booted a grounder while trying to make a flip to second base.

Jonathan Sanchez singled to right for an RBI and Pacheco scored when right fielder Lorenzo Cain misplayed the hit.

West Virginia got one run back in the third on Darren Ford's single.

Hagerstown added insurance runs on Elvis Cruz's RBI double in the fourth and Drew Butera's bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the fifth. The fly would have been the third out if it wasn't for Mat Gamel's throwing error.

Still, in both occasions, the Suns could have made bigger innings out of the situation, but settled for one run.

"We could have landed a knockout punch there, but we just scratched out one run," Cacciatore said. "I feel there is a tremendous amount of improvement with this team. ... It just has to translate to performance now."

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