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Suns flex their muscles, turn back Intimidators

May 20, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

In baseball, strength is a relative thing.

Players hit for power, but it usually doesn't have much to do with being a brute.

Aaron Seuss and Jake Smolinski won't get confused with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Lou Ferrigno -- or even Ironman and the Hulk for that matter -- but the pair still showed enough muscle for the Hagerstown Suns on Monday.

Seuss had three hits, including two home runs, and Smolinski slipped into linebacker mode to score on a collision play at the plate to help the Suns snatch a 5-2 win over Kannapolis in a crisply played game at Municipal Stadium.

The pair provided a few of the highlights in as complete a game as the Suns have played this season.

"We played pretty well," Hagerstown manager Darnell Coles said. "We got timely hitting and got good defense and any time you can get six-plus innings out of your starting pitcher, it is a good thing."

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Hagerstown (22-21) used the complete package to help Jeff Mandel (4-2) go six innings for the victory. The right-hander's only problem came in the third inning when he issued a leadoff walk to Matt Inouye and a two-run homer to right to Luis Sierra -- the No. 9 hitter -- to fall behind 2-0.

Seuss tied the game in the fourth when he strong-armed a two-run shot of his own -- just inside of the left-field foul pole -- off Kannapolis starter Anthony Carter to bring home Stephen King after he reached on a broken-bat single to left.

"I got a little jammed on that one," Seuss said. "I'm starting to feel more comfortable at the plate. I have been doing a lot of extra work with the coaches and I'm trying to bear down more."

Smolinski rolled out the lead for the Suns in the fifth by barreling into home plate. The second baseman drew a leadoff walk and took third on Sean Rooney's hit-and-run single to right.

With one out, Dan Lyons hit a drive to medium center field that Sergio Morales caught on a running start for his throw to the plate. The throw beat the tagging Smolinski, but he put his shoulder down and knocked it free from catcher Inouye for the 3-2 lead.

"I knew it was going to be close when I saw the catch in center field," Smolinski said. "I decided I was going to go for it the whole way when he caught it. I didn't hit him a squarely as I wanted, but it was square enough."

Seuss and Smolinski repeated their feats to give the Suns their final two insurance runs. Seuss hit a solo homer to right in the sixth. Smolinski singled and beat a throw home to score on a Lyons grounder to third in the seventh to give the Suns a three-run cushion.

The Suns capped the win with their gloves with two bang-bang plays. Third baseman Stephen King snagged a Danny Jordan liner ticketed for the left-field corner a double play to end the sixth. Reliever James Lehman snared Joe Persichina's shot up the middle to turn two to end the seventh.

"Those were huge," Coles said. "Those could have been momentum shifters but they were plays that stopped them from getting something started."

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