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Nunez sounds off with blast

April 28, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

Alexis Nunez is a ventriloquist in sanitary socks.

The Hagerstown Suns third baseman doesn't plan on saying much. He'll let his bat do all the talking.

Nunez's bat came out screaming on Friday. It produced three hits, including a walk-off solo home run in the 11th inning, to lift the Suns to a 10-9 victory over Delmarva.

"I just plan on not saying much and just going out there show what I can do," Nunez said. "That's all I can do."

It was a see-saw battle for the Suns, who ended a three-game losing streak. In the end, Nunez hit what he could see and saw it go over the right-field fence off Delmarva reliever Bruce Galloway (1-1), the Shorebirds' fourth pitcher of the night.

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Nunez, who moved into the leadoff slot of the order two weeks ago, hit aggressively in the early part of his at-bats. The game-winning swing came on the third pitch after one out in the inning. It proved Nunez can wait a little, too.

"Pretty much, the first pitch is usually a fastball or a cutter," Nunez said. "That time, he didn't throw me a fastball at all. (Hitting coach Jerry Browne) told me to stay back and I was able to hit a curveball that didn't do much."

Nunez, who has hit all three of his home runs in the last three games, sent the ball into the heavy, moist night air as the Suns pulled for it to carry over the right-field fence. It was to the right part of the park, compared to Justin Maxwell, who nearly ended the game an inning earlier with a shot that was caught on the warning track in center field.

"Nunez has been a real positive for us at the top of the order," Suns manager Tommy Herr said. "He has had a lot of quality at-bats and has worked the count ... and the last couple of games he has shown some good power. Maxwell's was a good shot but when the air gets thick it's tough to get out."

The Suns (7-14) looked to have the game in a runaway early, scoring four runs in the first four innings off Delmarva starter Josh Tamba. Erick San Pedro led off with a double in the third and scored on Nunez's grounder for the 1-0 lead.

Hagerstown added three more in the fourth on Maxwell's sacrifice fly, Francisco Guzman's RBI double and San Pedro's RBI single.

Delmarva got to Suns starter Edulin Abreu for five runs in the fifth as the first six batters reached base to chase him from the game. The Shorebirds batted around, highlighted by Brandon Tripp's two-run single.

The Suns took a 7-5 lead in their half of the fifth with a three-run rally, keyed by Mike Daniel's RBI single, to knock Tamba out of the game for a 7-5 lead.

Delmarva made it 7-6 in the seventh on Chris Vinyard's sacrifice fly, the only blemish in a stellar three-inning outing by Hagerstown reliever Josh Wilkie.

Maxwell got one to go out of the park in the seventh after Brett McMillan was hit by a pitch. His two-run blast to dead center off Reid Hamblet gave the Suns a 9-6 lead.

But nothing has been safe for Hagerstown this season.

The Shorebirds got to Gene Yost for three runs in the ninth to tie the game. Delmarva was one pitch from taking the lead as Victor Castillo had a 3-0 count with the bases-loaded against Suns reliever Eddy Baeza. Baeza pumped four straight strikes - the third was fouled off - to whiff Castillo and snuff the rally.

"I just lost my focus," Baeza said. "I had to check myself and settle down."

"(Baeza) is a high-energy guy and he was in a situation where he was hyped up and wanted to throw everything by people," Herr said. "But he came back from a 3-0 count and threw some big strikes."

And then Nunez spoke with his bat to help the Suns come out on top in their 12th one-run decision in their 21 games this season. Hagerstown did it with 14 hits, its best output of the season.

"It would have been tough to lose after leading the whole game," Herr said. "It's a nice one to win. All wins are good, but we have been struggling to put games away. Any step forward we can take is a good thing."

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