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Suns swap positions on field, scoreboard

May 03, 2007|by BOB PARASILITI

Hagerstown's baseball team retired its name for a day.

Instead of the Suns, they became the Nomads.

It's because the Suns were all over the place ... and in some cases, not where anyone expected them to be. And it worked.

Hagerstown shook up its batting order and then was reluctantly forced to shuffle around its defensive alignment Wednesday while facing West Virginia's Zach Braddock, one of the top pitchers in the South Atlantic League. The Suns got two home runs and great pitching to score a 4-0 victory over the Power.

Which was saying something, especially since the Suns fell to West Virginia 14-3 in each of the previous two games.

"We were just trying to shake things up," said Suns manager Tommy Herr of the batting-order shuffle. "We were trying to find some more offense."

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It was a right-place, right-time scenario for Justin Maxwell, who was elevated from No. 6 to leadoff in the order - usual leadoff hitter Alex Nunez was unable to play because of a bad ankle - and was also moved from center to right field, switching positions with Mike Daniel. Maxwell responded with a two-run home run off Braddock in the fifth to break a scoreless tie.

Maxwell ran into a wrong-place, wrong-time situation in the sixth. He charged in on Chuck Caufield's shallow two-out popup to right with second baseman Mike Martinez going back. The two players collided as Martinez made the play and Maxwell got spiked on the knee. He was forced to leave the game and went to the hospital for stitches, forcing the Suns to play defensive musical chairs.

"We really don't have a true leadoff hitter and I thought putting Maxwell up there would get him the chance to see more fastballs," Herr said. "Plus, when he gets on, he has the ability to steal bases. It turned out he was the right man in the right situation. We don't know how (the cut) will affect him. We have to wait to hear from the doctor."

After struggling through the first two games, the Suns were forced to face Braddock, a left-hander who was 2-0 with a 0.49 ERA, eight walks and 28 strikeouts in 19 innings.

"He had a lot of strikeouts per innings pitched," Herr said. "He didn't dominate us that way. We didn't do a lot offensively, but we put the ball in play."

The defensive switching started in the top of the sixth after third baseman Marcos Cabral was ejected for arguing balls and strikes the previous inning. It brought first baseman Brett McMillan off the bench and to the opposite side of the infield.

After Maxwell was hurt, four players switched positions, including catcher Jhonny Solano, who took over at second while Erick San Pedro went behind the plate and took over the leadoff hitting chores.

"McMillan played some third base in college and Solano played some second before," Herr said. "We had worked Martinez over at third because he will be playing there some, so it wasn't like we had too many out of place."

Maxwell's homer, a blast to left for his fifth of the season, gave the advantage to Suns starter Marco Estrada, who outdueled Braddock. He shut off the Power on three hits while walking three and striking out four.

Zach Baldwin, who joined the Suns on Wednesday, came on to allow two hits in three shutout innings and Eddy Baeza set the Power down in order in the ninth to nail down the victory.

Hagerstown upped its lead to 3-0 in the sixth on Chris Marrero's solo home run to right, his third of the season and second in two games. The Suns got their final run in the seventh when McMillan walked, took second on Francisco Guzman's sacrifice bunt, third on Martinez's grounder and scored on San Pedro's single.

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