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Crawdads score 7, send Suns to 7th straight 'L'

July 15, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

For the Hagerstown Suns, it was as uneasy as 1-2-3 on Friday.

"They get a solo homer, a two-run homer and a three-run homer," said Suns manager Frank Cacciatore. "It was a situation where we sat there and worked for a run and they put a crooked number up on the board with a home run."

And unfortunately for the Suns, when Hickory launched its long-ball barrage, it hung another crooked number on Hagerstown - a seventh straight loss.

The Crawdads defused the Suns' aggressive small-ball attack by launching a few fireworks of their own in a 7-3 victory to sweep the four-game and season series before 2,745 bottle-rocket brethren at Municipal Stadium.

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A night after a heart-to-heart, post-game talk with Cacciatore, the Suns came out and tried to wreck havoc by just putting the ball in play and legging it out for hits. It worked for the first inning, until Hickory started unloading the lumber on Hagerstown starter Jonathan Niese.

"We were aggressive, played well defensively, but Niese just got a couple of pitches up," Cacciatore said. "I think they came out more aggressive. We discussed some things. We continue to teach and work with them, but now we are under 50 games (remaining) and now it is time to play and perform."

The Suns took a 2-0 lead in the first off starter Dustin Craig by barely hitting the ball out of the infield.

Jose Castro led off with a drag bunt that put first baseman Tony Mansolino in no-man's land, and beat him to the bag. Will Vogl shot a bullet back to Craig on the mound that he snagged but lost the handle on for another infield hit.

After Nick Evans slapped a one-out single to right to load the bases, Rafael Arroyo drove in one run with a fielder's choice grounder and Craig uncorked a wild pitch to stake the Suns to the lead.

But the Crawdads came back in chorus-line fashion - 1-2-3 with a kick.

Brad Corley homered to center in the second, Cameron Blair socked a controversial two-run shot down the left-field line in the third and Andrew McCutchen bounced his three-run shot off the top of the center-field wall in the fifth to give the Crawdads the 6-2 lead.

Blair's shot hugged the left-field line and clanged off the foul pole, but home plate umpire Dan Oliver called it foul. Hickory manager Jeff Branson was ejected for arguing the call. After Oliver tossed Branson, base umpire Tim Bretzke intervened and Oliver overturned his call and awarded the home run. Cacciatore argued to no avail.

Evans and Arroyo put together back-to-back doubles in the fifth to move the Suns within three at 6-3, but it was the last hurrah.

Hagerstown's comeback try was hampered by Matt Anderson getting gunned down at home twice, in the second and fourth innings. Parris Austin, who had three hits, was thrown out stealing third in the second.

"I thought we played well and we had some chances where we moved the ball to get in situations," Cacciatore said. "We had two outs at the plate. We had chances where we could have put a couple of two-spots on the board, which could have changed things, but didn't get the big hits."

Niese helped Hickory to its final run in the sixth when Corley singled to left and moved to third on Niese's errant pickoff throw. Corley scored on Mansolino's single.

Niese (8-6) lasted six innings and was touched for seven runs on seven hits - including the three home runs - while striking out two. Craig got his first win with his five-inning outing.

A high point for the Suns was the three-inning relief effort of Eric Domangue, who shut out the Crawdads on five hits while striking out four.

"Domangue did a heck of a job because he had to stop the game and hold them at seven," Cacciatore said. "We didn't get the big hits, but we were in position to get it done. One day, we will start getting someone to step up and give us the big hit when we need it."

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