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Crawdads edge Suns by an inch

July 13, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Baseball is known as a game of inches.

The Hagerstown Suns didn't need a ruler to measure just how close they came to completing a ninth-inning comeback.

The Suns went down swinging - scoring three times in the final at-bat - but fell about a quarter-inch short of completing the task in a 7-6 loss to Hickory.

Hagerstown dropped its fifth straight game despite having the game work even better than eternal optimist and Suns manager Frank Cacciatore could have planned.

With the tying run on third, Nick Evans became the eighth man up in the inning. It ended with a flyout to center field as Evans, Hagerstown's top power threat, missed by the width of a dime of making the bloop into a blast.

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"Evans is our big guy and we want to come around to him as much as we can," Cacciatore said. "We headed into the inning down four (runs) and looking how far down the line he was before he came up again. I was thinking about it, but there is only so much I can control."

It was out of Hagerstown's control from the fourth inning on. A 52-minute rain delay ended the night for Suns starting pitcher Bobby Parnell. Parnell had Hickory on edge and held a 2-1 lead until weather decided to intervene.

The downfall came after the downpour. Hickory got to the Suns' bullpen with three runs off Brandon Nall in the sixth and three more off Kevin Tomasiewicz in the eighth to take what looked to be a secure 7-3 lead.

"It was just a matter of making big pitches at the big times," Cacciatore said. "Brandon got a couple of pitches up and so did Kevin. We would have liked to have brought Parnell back after the delay because he was in a groove and had a lot of pitches left, but he is going to be one of our main guys. If we were going to win, Nall and Tomasiewicz would have been in the game tonight anyway. They have done a great job for us all year."

It took a little hustle and patience, mixed with some wildness by Hickory reliever Matt Swanson, to get the Suns back in the game in the ninth.

Rafael Arroyo started the rally with a leadoff single to left and moved to second when Drew Butera walked. Both runners advanced on Jesus Gamero's grounder to first.

Swanson uncorked a wild pitch to score Arroyo before walking Armand Gaerlan. With two outs, Will Vogl beat out an infield single to score Butera and barely keep the rally alive.

"The big key was Vogl getting down the line. ... That was the big key," Cacciatore said. "Obviously, we did what we had to to win the game in the last inning."

Swanson was lifted for Justin Vaclavik, who was touched immediately for an RBI single by Jonel Pacheco. Vogl moved to third on a passed ball during Evans' at-bat to set the stage for the fairy tale ending.

It just ended up being the moral of the story when Evans just barely undercut Vaclavik's 2-2 pitch for the final flyout.

"When we went into the inning against their reliever, we were going to make him throw a first strike and then go after him," Cacciatore said. "Swanson had a little trouble and we showed a lot of patience in the inning."

The score was tied 1-1 after two innings. Jason Delaney scored on Eddie Prasch's short single to left, crossing on a close play at the plate. The Suns tied the score when Arroyo reached on a fielder's choice, took third on a errant pickoff throw by Luis Valdez and scored on Butera's single.

Garlan had leadoff doubles in the third and fifth innings, advancing to third both times on sacrifice bunts by Jose Castro. He scored on a single by Vogl before the rain delay and a Pacheco grounder after the game resumed.

Delaney, who drove in and scored runs in each of the three-run innings, finished with three hits and two RBI for the Crawdads. Prasch also had two RBI for Hickory.

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