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Five-run first inning lifts Suns to win

August 29, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

As a leadoff hitter, Jose Castro is supposed to set the table.

On Monday, he not only set the table, he opened a buffet line.

The Suns' shortstop and newly anointed switch hitter had the battle of a lifetime from the left side of the plate, finishing a 16-pitch at-bat with a double to lead off the game and ignite a five-run first inning to lead Hagerstown to a 7-5 win over Lake County at Municipal Stadium.

If there is such a thing, it was an epic Single-A battle between Castro and Captains starting pitcher Jeff Stevens. Castro kept hacking and hacking, working the count full and fouling off pitches until he ripped a liner to right-center field.

The next six Suns hitters followed with every possible entry from the singles catalog to produce five runs and give Hagerstown a 5-2 lead it never relinquished.

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"It was like batting practice," Castro said. "I usually have pine tar on my bat when I come up, but I had to go back and get more. I was getting tired and I had to rest. It was something."

It became everything for the Suns.

It was a much needed answer to the two unearned runs they allowed in the top of the first. And it was an early explosion which has been missing for much of the season.

"Castro's at-bat set the tone," said Suns manager Frank Cacciatore. "We got seven straight hits in the first at-bat and that was good to see. It was a long time since we have done that and great after giving up two. We had a good assortment of singles after that.

"We got Castro hitting from the left side of the plate and that was a big hit for him. He used to switch hit when he was in school, but we got him trying it again and he seems to have some natural mechanics from that side."

Castro started the merry-go-round against Stevens and the Captains. Ryan Coultas followed with a single to right and Jonel Pacheco singled to center to score Castro.

Nick Evans and Jonathan Sanchez each followed with infield singles - Evans' to the hole at first and Sanchez's off Stevens' glove - for two more runs.

The last two runs scored on Leivi Ventura's single to right and Will Vogl's infield single to the hole at first, where he beat the covering Stevens to the bag.

"I don't know if that first at-bat tired (Stevens) out. He still had a lot of bullets left to fire," Cacciatore said. "But it helped out. We did a good job working for some counts."

The Suns fell behind 2-0 to start the game as a pair of Ventura fielding errors opened the door. Knuckleballer Zac Clements kept the game in reach by allowing only Max Ramirez's RBI grounder and Fernando Pacheco's single as the only damage.

The Suns added a run in the second on Jonathan Sanchez's sacrifice fly for a 6-2 lead, but Lake County struck back in the fourth on Mike Butia's two-out, two-run homer to right to make it 6-4.

Lake County closed to 6-5 with a run in the eighth before Vogl countered with a leadoff home run in the bottom half to ice the game.

Brandon Nall got the win in relief and Kevin Tomasiewicz picked up his 18th save.

South Hagerstown and Hagerstown Community College graduate P.J. Hiser was 0-for-5 for Lake County.

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