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Suns' late rally falls short again

April 07, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

Tommy Herr likes the way the Hagerstown Suns drive.

The only problem is they don't know how to use the rearview mirror yet.

For the second straight game, Hagerstown's manager saw his team fall behind by a large margin only to rally in the late innings. This time, the Suns fell behind 11-4 before scoring six runs in the final two innings Friday to cosmetically alter an 11-10 loss to the Hickory Crawdads.

"It's been an uphill battle," Herr said. "We fall behind early and score late. We've only had the lead once in the first two games and it was briefly for one inning and then we gave up five runs. We haven't been able to play with a lead yet."

The Suns have scored 14 runs in their season-opening two losses, 10 coming in the eighth and ninth innings. On both occasions, it has only gotten Hagerstown into the passing lane on the final lap but still behind the Crawdads.

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The downfall - as was the case in Thursday's 5-4 loss in the opener - was shaky defense in the middle innings. The Suns committed three errors through the fifth and sixth innings, leading to eight Hickory runs.

The errors - mostly on routine infield plays - took the air out of Hagerstown's early rally when it came back from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the fourth on Brett McMillian's leadoff home run off Crawdads starter and winner Bradley Clapp.

"We can't give runs away like we are," Herr said. "We have to make those plays defensively. It's not like they were tough plays. It's frustrating to score 10 runs and lose, but I'm still encouraged."

Hagerstown starter Matthew Perks was part of his own undoing in the fifth when the Crawdads batted around and scored five runs, including three unearned. McMillian misplayed a grounder at first base and Perks air-mailed a throw to second on a comebacker on consecutive plays, both of which could have started inning-ending double plays.

But McMillian's boot of Angel Gonzalez's grounder allowed Eddie Prasch to score the tying run. Perks' throw of James Boone's shot back to the mound went into center field, allowing Alex Pressley to score the go-ahead run. Jonel Pacheco added a sacrifice fly and Jamie Romak hit a two-run home run to give Hickory a 10-3 lead.

"That's part of youth," Herr said. "You get too excited and do things too quickly instead of doing them instinctively."

That's where the Suns have succeeded with the bats.

Down 11-4 in the eighth, the Suns tried to pull off a big comeback.

Mike Daniel led off with a double off reliever Henry Cabrera and scored on Chris Marrero's one-out double to left. Marrero trotted home ahead of Jeff Maxwell's massive two-out, two-run blast over the center-field wall to move the Suns within 11-7.

It set the stage for the close call in the ninth.

Joe Napoli and Alexis Nunez drew back-to-back walks off Jake Cuffman to lead off the inning. Olivio Astacio relieved Cuffman and immediately allowed Jhonathan Solano a single to right to load the bases.

Daniel grounded to second to force out Solano and drive in a run but Nunez also scored on Gonzalez's errant throw from short in an attempt for a double play.

Singles by Stephen King and Marrero brought the Suns within a run with one out, before McMillian and Maxwell struck out to end the game.

Presley had three hits while Pacheco, a former Sun, and Romak drove in two runs each for the Crawdads.

Marrero, Maxwell and Nunez each drove in two runs for the Suns. Hagerstown struck out 12 times, giving the Suns 23 whiffs in the two games.

"We've lost two one-run games and have the feeling that we could have won," Herr said. "That only makes you anticipate playing the next one."

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