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Asheville cools off Hagerstown

August 01, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Baseball is a game decided by inches, measured in feet and driven by momentum.

But on Monday, it became a game of chance for the Hagerstown Suns ... and the wheel came up in favor of the Asheville Tourists.

Asheville scratched out a late rally, capped by Michael Paulk's two-out RBI single off reliever Nick Abel in the ninth to claim a 5-4 win and gain a split of a four-game series with the suddenly red-hot Suns.

But in the long run, it became a matter of the Tourists making good on a golden opportunity while the Suns rolled craps when all their chips were in the pot.

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"They scored in the end, but we had a couple of opportunities, too," Suns manager Frank Cacciatore said. "We had chances to get hits to pad our lead and another to get a lead but didn't do the job. We got ourselves in a position to win, but they got the hits and we didn't."

It was a classic late summer game, played like the playoffs were on the line. The sticky heat and tight game only magnified every situation on the field and made every play all the more important.

And in the long run, it put an unfortunate cap on the Suns' 5-3 homestand as Hagerstown is 10-3 in the last 13 games.

"You want to come to play each game," Cacciatore said. "You tend to watch from game to game and then series to series. But when you start doing well, you start thinking about space and time. We've been really hot over the last half of July. I'd love to go a couple of 12-3s in each half of August."

Even with the loss, the Suns (45-62, 17-20) got a creditable start from Jeramy Simmons with quality relief from Eric Domangue and Abel. They got big extra base hits to drive in runs. They just weren't the last team to rally on Monday.

Cole Garner greeted Abel (1-1) with a well-placed single between third baseman Leivi Ventura - who was guarding the line - and the bag.

Then, after Dan Carte drew a one-out walk, Paulk squirted his RBI single just past Ventura to bring home the run.

The Suns tried to answer against Asheville closer Andrew Johnston as Will Vogl led off with a single, but Hagerstown failed to match Asheville's production.

Simmons was in command for much of his six-inning outing, with the exception of some generosity in the fourth. He struck out six, but allowed four runs on five hits. Domangue came on to work two strong scoreless innings before giving way to Abel.

"Simmons was very good," Cacciatore said. "He was throwing three pitches for strikes and mixed them up well. Plus, he gave us six innings in this heat. If we didn't make the mistakes in the fourth, he might have given us seven, but he had to throw extra pitches. Domangue did a great job and so did Abel."

The Suns took a 1-0 lead in the first off Asheville starter Shane Lindsay on back-to-back doubles by Jonel Pacheco and Nick Evans.

The Suns slipped in the fourth to allow Asheville (19-18, 54-53) to take a 3-1 lead. Eric Young tied the game with a one-out home run to right before Cole Garner struck out but reached first on a wild pitch.

Simmons fired an errant pickoff throw, which allowed Garner to move to third and score on Phil Cuadrado's single. Cuadrado scored on Jason Van Kooten's double.

The Suns, who failed to take advantage of one of their big chance in the third when Ventura grounded out with runners on second and third, answered and chased Lindsay in the bottom of the inning, but failed to fully take advantage of the other opportunity.

The Suns loaded the bases and tied the score on Fernando Martinez's two-run double with one out down the right-field line. Buzz Vargas replaced Lindsay and got the last two outs of the inning with the Suns stranding two more runners in scoring position.

The Suns took a 4-3 lead in the fifth when Jesus Gamero tripled home Ventura. Asheville tied the game in the sixth, though, on a two-out homer to right by Cuadrado.

"Those two mistakes didn't turn the game around, but it put guys in scoring position," Cacciatore said. "That's going to happen. You are never going be flawless. We gave them a cheapy, but we came back. I'm not upset about that."

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