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Suns' Guerra comes of age vs. Lakewood

July 03, 2006|by CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

At only 17 years of age, Hagerstown Suns pitcher Deolis Guerra is a minor. But by baseball statutes, the Venezuelan was major Sunday night.

Guerra scattered four hits through 6 1/3 innings - his longest outing of the season - to silence Lakewood and guide the Suns to an 8-1 victory before a crowd of 4,188 at Municipal Stadium.

Guerra, who dropped a pair of two-inning decisions to Lakewood in May to start his career, struck out six and walked two.

"The first couple of times out, he was just getting his feet wet in professional baseball," said Suns manager Frank Cacciatore. "He's still on a leash, but pitching into the seventh inning is a big confidence booster."

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Guerra has steadily increased the amount of innings pitched since his first three starts in May, when he pitched two innings in each contest. After a four-inning start in June, he closed out the month with four straight five-inning efforts. He extending that number on Sunday.

"I just have to focus and keep the ball down," Guerra said. "I've been talking a lot with the pitching coach and getting good ideas to get in and out of different situations."

Most of the situations were the same for Guerra on Sunday as Lakewood managed just two baserunners through four innings. One of those runners was thrown out at second base after trying to stretch a single into a double.

Guerra survived back-to-back singles to lead off the fifth, and followed by retiring six straight Blue Claws in order. Jeremy Slayden tallied Lakewood's first extra-base hit of the game, doubling down the right-field line to lead off the seventh. Two batters later, Guerra was relieved by Kevin Tomasiewicz.

"(Guerra) is a young kid with a nice arm, and he's still gaining strength," Cacciatore said. "It's a big difference being 17 than 23 or 24 when it comes to strength."

The Suns (32-48, 4-6) racked up 11 hits. Leivi Ventura led the charge with a pair of RBI singles and an eighth inning solo home run.

"The big thing is getting base hits with runners on base, but we scored a couple on just hustle," Cacciatore said. "They also kicked it around a little bit and the ball bounced our way."

Welinson Baez was the kicker for Lakewood (44-36, 7-4 second half) as he committed all four of the team's errors, leading to three of Hagerstown's runs. He finally fielded a ball cleanly in the eighth inning, drawing an ovation from the sympathetic Suns crowd.

Hagerstown's Hector Pellot matched Ventura with three hits and Jesus Gomero, who joined the Suns last week, doubled twice.

Lakewood starter Matt Maloney, who carried the South Atlantic League's top earned run average into the game, was rocked for six runs in 5 1/3 innings.

"We've been playing good baseball," Cacciatore said. "We played well in June. We're 4-6 in the second half but there are a couple that could have gone the other way and we could be over the hump."

Tomasiewicz relieved Guerra in the seventh and pitched 2 1/3 hitless innings to preserve the victory.

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