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Suns stay grounded, win seventh in a row

July 27, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Every time Jonel Pacheco hits the ball on the ground, he thinks he has a hit.

It was nothing different Wednesday in the Hagerstown Suns' ninth inning. Pacheco put the ball on the ground and started legging it to first base.

"I thought I was safe," he said. "I always do."

This time, he was right. Pacheco turned a ninth-inning, bases-loaded grounder to second from double play into fielder's choice to score Armand Gaerlan from third with the winning run in a 2-1 victory over Kannapolis for the Suns' seventh straight win.

Pacheco has consistently charged down the base line on grounders the entire season, falling a step short the majority of the time. This time, it was different.

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He was safe on a play that will drop his batting average because it isn't considered a hit.

"That won the game," said Suns manager Frank Cacciatore. "It took no ability to do it. It was all hustle and desire."

It put a sudden end to a glimmer of hope for the snake-bitten Intimidators, who are now 30-71 for the season.

Gaerlan drew a one-out walk to end the night for reliever Matt Long. Paul Moviel came on to face Suns' leadoff hitter Fernando Martinez, who slapped a single down the right-field line to move Gaerlan to third before taking second on the throw.

With first base open, Kannapolis elected to intentionally walk Will Vogl - who was 2-for-3 - to load the bases for a possible double play.

"I said, 'I'll take the walk so you can face the No. 3 hitter,'" Vogl said.

Pacheco hit a soft grounder that forced Vogl at second and beat shortstop Jamie Castillo's relay throw by a half-step to produce the winning run.

"I think in the picture that I hit a ground ball and I run hard," Pacheco said. "I didn't hit that ball that hard. If I would have hit it hard, it would've been a double play. But I didn't and I beat it out."

It made a winner out of Suns closer Kevin Tomasiewicz, who came on with one out in the ninth and got Fernando Valenzuela Jr. to fly into an inning-ending double play as Paulo Orlando wandered off second base.

Lost in the shuffle was the outing of Jeramy Simmons, who was making his third start for the Suns. Simmons had a no-hitter through six innings before allowing Kannapolis' only run in the seventh.

"He was outstanding in his third start," Cacciatore said. "He was down in the zone and ahead in the count. When you do that, you are telling the other team they have to swing the bat to beat you."

The Suns took a 1-0 lead in the sixth when Leivi Ventura led off with a double off starter Clayton Richard and took third on Jose Castro's sacrifice bunt before scoring on Jesus Gamero's single. It was Gamero's 10th RBI in the first three games of the series.

Aaron Cunningham broke up Simmons' no-hitter with a leadoff double and took third on Simmons' errant pickoff throw. Valenzuela grounded off of Gaerlan's leg at second over to first baseman Nick Evans, who made the unassisted putout.

The winning streak is the Suns' longest of the year and moves them to 15-17 in the second half, 43-59 overall.

"It's nice to see and it's well deserved," Cacciatore said. "The way they apply themselves and keep working, it is great to seem the get rewarded. They have been playing hard all the way through."

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