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Suns' skid reaches six games

July 14, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Lately, the Hagerstown Suns have been playing like guys who get paid by salary.

When the big moment of the game strikes, the Suns have been off the clock.

The defining moment of the night came and went on Thursday, and the Suns were at the water cooler again. This time, the inability to respond to the call resulted in a 5-1 loss to Hickory and a sixth straight defeat.

"It's not a case that we are playing badly," Suns manager Frank Cacciatore said. "But the moment hasn't been coming when we make that big pitch or get that big two-out hit. It just hasn't been there."

The lack of patient play and clutch performances has hung over the Suns like a July storm system that has been hovering over Hagerstown. Those dark clouds have been bringing rain ... they aren't just hanging over the Suns.

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Although, it was hard to tell Thursday.

Hagerstown got only one hit after the fourth inning and couldn't come through in the prime moment of the game - with runners on first and second with none out in the seventh - with only a 3-1 deficit.

"We had one chance," Cacciatore said. "We bunted the runners over to second and third and got a battling AB from (Parris) Austin, but didn't score. After that, there wasn't much."

Rafael Arroyo walked and Drew Butera was hit by a pitch to open the seventh, ending the night of Hickory starter Joe Bauserman. Matt Anderson greeted reliever Jean Garavito with a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position.

Austin fouled off three pitches, including a wicked shot which just missed hitting the left-field line, before grounding to first and Armand Gaerlan flew to left to end the threat.

From there, the Crawdads added single runs in the eighth and ninth to pull away to the four-run win. Brad Corley's double off reliever Ryan Meyers scored Mike McCuistion from first in the eighth. German Marte dished up a leadoff home run to Shelby Ford in the ninth to cap the scoring.

Time seemed to stand still through the end of the game as the Suns failed to make a run. In the beginning, it seemed like Hagerstown might have been on the beam.

Hickory took a 1-0 lead in the first off starter Deolis Guerra when Ford led off with a single, took third on Andrew McCutchen's one-out hit and scored on McCuistion's fielder's choice grounder.

Hagerstown tied the game in the bottom of the inning on Will Vogl's one-out homer over the center-field wall.

It turned into a pitchers' duel between Guerra and Bauserman with both methodically working through the batting orders until the fifth. Steve Lerud drew a leadoff walk against Guerra and then trotted home on John Santiago's two-run homer - a one-out blast to left by the No. 9 hitter - to grab the 3-1 lead.

"Guerra did a great job. He had a nice changeup today and broke off some nice curves later in the game," Cacciatore said. "He got the ball up on the hit-and-run play that went for the home run ... that's going to happen. Quite frankly, he threw the ball past a couple of guys when I thought he was going to come in with his changeup."

The Suns began to rock themselves to sleep as Jonel Pacheco got an infield single off Bauserman to lead off the fourth. Hagerstown didn't get another hit until Pacheco got a single with two outs in the eighth. Between the two hits, 14 of 17 Suns hitters went by the wayside.

Bauserman (4-7) allowed four hits and struck out four in his six innings before Garavito slammed the door with one-hit pitching over three innings for the save.

"It's sort of like a slow death at times," Cacciatore said. "If we can be patient to flip a count in our favor and score a couple of runs, that could make the difference for us. We have to bear down and battle. And if we go in there, battle and lose, well so be it. But at least we battled."

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