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Clubhouse Chatter

Second half fortunes as easy as 1-2-3

Second half fortunes as easy as 1-2-3

June 26, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

There isn't really a set plan.

It's more like a general philosophy when it comes to setting objectives for the Hagerstown Suns in the second half.

"If we play like we have been, the wins will take care of themselves," Suns manager Frank Cacciatore said Thursday after Hagerstown's 2-1 loss to the Lakewood BlueClaws in the opening game of the second half of the South Atlantic League's season.

Granted, that statement is more of a coaching and organizational stance on the Suns' fortunes for the 2006 season.

But the fans ... they'd rather see all the improvement in the world while it translates into wins and losses. So, for those with discerning baseball tastes, here's an unofficial check list for gauging the Suns' progress in the final 70 games, according to Cacciatore.

1. The Suns need good performances from the mound to stay in games.

2. Play solid defense.

3. Continue to improve hitting, especially in situations.

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Thursday's game had it all for the Suns, except for the victory. Hagerstown ended the first half playing some of its best baseball of the season, giving the Suns something to build on in the second season.

"Sure, I would have liked to get the first win on the table," Cacciatore said. "We have the momentum we built at the end of the first half and we have been playing some quality baseball."

Starter Ryan Meyers came out to fill the first rule of second-half engagement. Meyers went 6 1/3 innings in the loss, giving up both runs in the seventh. But in the first six innings, Meyers worked quickly and kept the Suns in the game.

"It was big for us to get Meyers pumping on the mound," Cacciatore said. "It all starts on the mound. The pitchers set the pace of the game for the team."

Part Two was on display with some flashy glove play. Shortstop Jose Castro made a outstanding diving play to open the seventh inning. Leivi Ventura and Nick Evans have improved on the corners while the outfield, led by speedy Joe Holden, has remained steady.

"I'm an offensive guy, but I know that teams win with defense," Cacciatore said. "We have been going out there and turning more double plays. We work on that everyday and it is starting to pay off."

The Suns have turned an SAL-leading 84 double plays this season, including 30 thus far in June.

Phase Three, hitting, is improving but needs more work.

The Suns' team batting average is on the rise, but needs to show more consistency. The Suns had problems with runners in scoring position, but Jonathan Schemmel came up with a key hit last Sunday and Elvis Cruz drove in the only run on Thursday in the clutch.

"They have been getting better," Cacciatore said. "We're hitting .260 in June (.248 for the season). We lost who is considered our best player (Fernando Martinez), but it has allowed other guys to come in and step up."

Holden has filled the center-field slot admirably, hitting .310 with six home runs. Meanwhile, Jonathan Sanchez has heated up with six home runs while the Suns have stroked 22 in June.

"It's kind of tough to lose by one run, but we have been playing well," Cacciatore said. "The good thing is we only have to wait until tomorrow to go back out and do it again. I'm not arrogant enough to get up there and say we are going to win the league title in the second half, but we have a great chance to be a team everyone is going to have to reckon with."




Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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