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Harper explodes, Suns rip Crawdads

April 23, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown's Michael Taylor slides into third base during the Suns' 17-1 victory over Hickory on Friday night at Municipal Stadium.
By Chris Tilley/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Taylor Jordan got the last chuckle in a night of belly laughs for the Hagerstown Suns.

Hagerstown’s starting pitcher was the only person to top the best night of Bryce Harper’s young professional career.

Jordan carried a perfect game into the fifth inning on Friday to upstage a sparkling offensive display by the Suns — led by Harper’s three-hit, six-RBI night — as Hagerstown unloaded a 17-1 shellacking on the Hickory Crawdads.

“He was outstanding tonight. It was hard to do tonight with the long innings we had,” said Suns manager Brian Daubach. “He really had no-hit stuff through the first four innings, which was amazing in these conditions. He has been throwing up nothing by zeroes for us.”

The Suns (10-6) sent 27 batters to the plate in the first four innings to throttle Hickory and end a three-game losing streak, all to the Crawdads. Hickory contributed to its own demise with five errors, 16 walks, two hit batters and three wild pitches.

Harper showed no ill effects after his brush with injury. The Washington Nationals’ top prospect, who collided with the right-field fence in the opener of Thursday’s doubleheader, proved he was no worse for wear with a two-run double in the second, a two-run single in the third and a two-run home run to right in the fourth before being lifted after the sixth.

Harper, who was fitted for contact lenses on Wednesday, also walked twice. He lifted his average to .306 with three homers and 14 RBIs. He is 5-for-10 with two home runs and seven RBIs since having his vision corrected.

“I felt good in there tonight,” Harper said. “I still have a long way to go. I can’t sit on this game. I have to keep going.”

It all made it easy for Jordan (4-0), who pitched six innings of four-hit ball with one walk and three strikeouts.

The Suns ripped 14 hits to make the most of the gifts provided by Hickory’s pitching. Blake Kelso drove in four runs and Wade Moore added three RBIs.

“You never know when games like this are going to happen,” Daubach said. “This is the first time I saw the way we hit in spring training. The newer guys started hitting the ball and it was good to see.”

Hagerstown took total control early, using the raw weather to its advantage. The Suns scored nine runs in the first two innings as Hickory starter Carlos Melo and reliever Braden Tullis had problems dealing with the cold, wet conditions. The Crawdads issued six walks, hit a batter and threw three wild pitches in the first two innings.

Meanwhile, Jordan was unfazed by his surroundings. He retired the first 14 batters he faced before allowing a two-out single to Jhonny Gomez in the fifth inning.

“When you get the lead it is easier to pitch,” Daubach said. “He was doing what the organization preaches. He was getting ahead, pitching to contact and he was breaking bats. It was fun to watch.”

Hagerstown used patience to build a three-run first inning off Melo. Adrian Sanchez was hit by a pitch and Harper and David Freitas each drew walks to load the bases with one out. Mills Rogers hit a sacrifice fly and Moore ripped a two-run double to start the rout.

The Suns sent 11 hitters to the plate to score six runs in the second. Harper greeted Tullis with a two-run double to right and scored when Freitas followed with a double. Moore and Blake Kelso also drove in runs to make it 9-0.

The Suns sent 10 more hitters to the plate in the third for another four runs and a 13-0 lead. Harper cashed in with a two-run single as the Crawdads committed a pair of errors to prolong the inning. Andres Perez-Lobo came into the game and gave up an RBI single to Kelso before hitting Michael Taylor with the bases loaded to cap the flurry.

Harper blasted a shot well over the wall in right field to put the Suns up 15-0 in the fourth. It was his second homer in as many days and third of the season.

The Suns added two runs in the sixth on Kelso’s two-run double to center off Hickory reliever Bill Johnson.

Hickory got on the scoreboard in the eighth inning on an RBI single by Tomas Telis.

Kelso finished with three hits, while Freitas, Moore and Rogers finished with two each.

“We have been getting runners on base, but we haven’t been getting the big hits to get the runs to finish their starting pitchers off,” Daubach said. “We were patient tonight. Mills hit the sacrifice fly to get us started, but that is the way you want to start. We went up there to hit with a plan.”

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