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Call to arms is successful in field of battle

Call to arms is successful in field of battle

August 07, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

It was like an old-fashioned standoff.

The best runners of the South Atlantic League's South Division against the best gunners of the North Division in a four-game shootout.

When it was over, the gunners were on the mark.

Asheville and its "Speed kills" style of baseball came to Municipal Stadium with a reputation to steal any base which isn't nailed down. The Suns, and their corps of catchers, were among the league's best at defending the bags.

That became the game within the game. The Suns and Tourists split the war, but Hagerstown won the battle.

Asheville had stolen 230 bases in 339 tries heading into Friday's game. They were up against Drew Butera and Rafael Arroyo, who together are the top catching tandem against steals in the league. Arroyo has thrown out 14 of 29 (48 percent) of stealers - second best in the SAL - while Butera ranks third at 47 of 101 (47 percent). Suns cathers had thown out 47 percent of all base stealers.

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The Suns held Asheville to six steal attempts in the four-game set. The Tourists were successful only once. And a seventh chance was foiled when Eric Young Jr. - who leads the SAL with 73 steals - was picked off first by Jeramy Simmons on Monday.

Young, who is 73 of 100 in steals this season, didn't make an attempt against the Suns.

Or he didn't get the chance.

"This is a real good challenge," Suns manager Frank Cacciatore said on July 28. "Raffy rose to that challenge today. The pitching staff did a good job, too. They changed things up and kept them close to the bag to help prevent all the running."

Arroyo, with the help of Suns starter Bobby Parnell, gunned down two Asheville steal attempts in the first game to set a tone for the series.

Butera carried it through in the next three games, gunning down three of four attempts. The only steal came when Butera dropped the ball when trying to throw.

"It was a good challenge for both teams," Butera said. "For us, it was a matter of keeping them off the bases, but for them it was to get on and test us. We have been doing well, but a lot of credit goes to the pitchers. When a base is stolen, it is usually off the pitcher. They have been making quicker moves to the plate and throwing what isn't neccasarily pitchers' pitches to help keep them close."

Suns spots

The Suns received a new pitcher during Tuesday's off day.

Zac Clements joined the Suns and started Wednesday's game at Augusta while German Marte was sent to Brooklyn to work out of the Cyclones' bullpen.

Clements, a 26-year-old right-hander, was the New York Mets' 16th selection as a catcher in the 2002 draft. He spent five seasons behind the plate, moving as high as Triple-A this season before being converted into a knuckleball pitcher. Clements, who was promoted from Gulf Coast, started the Suns 5-2 win over Augusta, but got no decision after allowing two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings while walking three and striking out four.

Deolis Guerra was named South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week for July 24-30 for allowing one earned run on eight hits with six strikeouts and one walk over 11 2/3 innings and two starts. He was the second straight Suns pitcher to win the award. Jonathan Niese was the SAL's top pitcher for July 17-23.

Heading into Saturday, Hagerstown's starting pitching has a 2.13 ERA (22 runs in 93 innings) in its last 17 games. Meanwhile the bullpen is carrying a 0.48 ERA (three runs in 56 innings) - for a composite total of 1.51 (25 runs in 149 innings).

The Suns ERA for the season is now 3.90, a drop of .32 runs since June 30.

The Suns were 15-15 in July. It was the first month where they finished .500 or better.




Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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