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McMillian lifts Suns to first win

April 09, 2007|by BOB PARASILITI

For one swing, what Brett McMillian lacked in physical power he made up in brain power.

Even at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, it's not a matter of how hard you hit it more than if it hits the ground untouched when you do.

Hagerstown's first baseman launched a 150-foot shot down the left-field line to drive home Mike Daniel with two outs in the eighth inning to lift the Suns to a 2-1 decision over Hickory for their first victory of the season and a split of an Easter doubleheader at Municipal Stadium.

The Suns gave up a run in the seventh in the opener in a 6-5 loss, their third one-run loss in three games this season.

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But McMillian's less-than-characteristic hit in the extra inning of the second game made all right with the world as the Suns start an eight-game roadtrip tonight in Lexington, Ky. It just came down to using his head a little.

"They had been working away from me the whole day," McMillian said. "Earlier in the day, I came up with runners on second and third and tried to pull the ball and that was a mistake. This time I came up knowing they were going to work away and I looked to hit it to left."

The Suns had just lost their first prolonged lead of the season when Hickory's Jared Keel ripped a two-out, two-strike double to center field to bring home Jamie Romak with the game-tying run in the seventh.

Daniel started the eighth-inning rally with a solid single up the middle off Hickory closer Kyle Pearson (0-1). He advanced to second on Chris Marrero's grounder for the second out.

McMillian didn't wait long to end it. Pearson's first pitch rode the outside part of the plate to the left-handed hitter. He flung the bat head out, popping the ball to left in the only spot the Crawdads didn't seem to have covered, allowing Daniel to cross the plate.

A quick, rough celebration began in honor of the first victory.

"Sometimes it just happens," McMillian said with a shrug. "We got this roadtrip coming up, we had just lost three one-run game and it was good to get out of the cold.

"I was looking for the pitch away and wanted to go the other way. I didn't want to get too big. ... I did that the other day and struck out. I was trying to do too much. If you take your time, things eventually even out."

And it was a start for the Suns (1-3), who were forced to mount big comebacks in the first three games before coming up short. In fact, until Hagerstown took the 1-0 lead in the third inning and held it until the seventh, it had led for only one half-inning the entire season.

"We were due to get that monkey off our backs," Suns manager Tommy Herr said. "As a hitter, you go up in that situation looking for a good pitch to get a good swing on. It was the first one for McMillian. It was nice to get the win. We deserved to win more than that in this series."

Hagerstown starter Yunior Novoa gave the Suns every chance by pitching a perfect game through the first 4 1/3 innings before Romak hit a one-out double in the fifth.

The Suns took a 1-0 lead in the third when Alex Nunez led off with a bunt single to the left of the pitcher's mound. After stealing second and moving to third on walks to Daniel and Stephen King, Nunez scored when Marrero grounded into a fielder's choice.

The lead stood until Keel's double off Coby Mavroulis in the seventh. Aaron Jackson pitched the eighth for the victory.

In the opener, each team displayed shaky defense on the frigid field in the first inning as each scored four runs.

Hagerstown starter Jhonny Nunez was touched for three unearned runs and James Boone's home run to fall behind 4-0 in the top half of the inning. The Suns struck back against Michael Felix in the bottom half, keyed by an RBI double by Marrero and a two-run double by Justin Maxwell, both down the right-field line.

The two teams traded runs in the fifth, the Suns coming on Joe Napoli's homer to center field.

Hickory got the game winner in the seventh when Eddie Prasch drew a leadoff walk against Josh Wilkie and eventually scored on Angel Gonzalez's two-out triple down the right-field line.

"All series, we were playing just well enough to lose," Herr said. "We would fall behind and fight back and then just make an error in the field to give it away. I feel good about this team because it has shown some good resilience."

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