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Suns win on Harper's homer in 10th

June 02, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — This was the Bryce Harper everyone was told to expect.

As the top prospect in the Washington Nationals organization, the 18-year-hold Harper was supposed to hit, run and field like a major leaguer. He has produced brilliance as advertised, while still showing a need for experience and polish.

But Harper topped the brilliance on Thursday. The center fielder hit a two-run home run over the center-field wall on the first pitch he saw from reliever Trevor Lockwood in the bottom of the 10th inning to give Hagerstown a 9-8 victory over Greenville, preventing a second straight collapse by the Suns.

“I was looking for a pitch to drive,” he said. “Any time you get a pitch to drive in a situation like that, it’s huge.”

The Suns (33-21) squandered a 6-3 lead, allowing the Drive to come back and tie the game at 7 and force extra innings. Greenville took an 8-7 lead on Henry Ramos’ RBI single in the 10th to force the all-or-nothing situation.

Adrian Sanchez led off with a double to left, bringing Harper to the plate in his most dramatic spot during his tenure with the Suns.

He drove Lockwood’s first pitch over the wall in dead center, starting a huge celebration and an even bigger sigh of relief as Hagerstown pulled out the victory. It was Harper’s 13th home run of the season and completed a four-hit night, which included three singles, to raise his average to .346.

“I hit a changeup away,” Harper said. “(Lockwood) had good stuff. He was throwing a good two-seamer that sunk, and I got the single to left (in the eighth inning). I came up this time confident for breaking pitches.

Harper rounded third base and fired his helmet up in the air while the Suns waited at home to mob him. The homer washed away the sins for Wednesday night when Hagerstown blew a 7-0 lead in a 14-12 loss in the series opener.

“That wasn’t the way we drew it up, but we’ll take it,” said Suns manager Brian Daubach. “It would have been another tough loss.

“In that situation, to stay in the middle of the field with your approach is really something. Generally, (Harper) has been pulling the ball. He has calmed down the last couple of days. That was a great at-bat. It was only one pitch, but with the game on the line. That’s big ... I can’t describe it.”

Daubach didn’t need to. Harper’s actions spoke volumes.

It made a winner of Paul Applebee (5-1), who allowed the run in the top of the 10th.

Applebee issued a one-out walk to Miles Head, which was followed by two-out singles by Drew Hedman and Ramos to produce the go-ahead run.

The Suns added to their problems by allowing five unearned runs on four errors to help the Drive get back into the game. The only redeeming factor is Hagerstown banged out 18 hits to offset the problems with their gloves.

The Suns led 6-3 after getting the early lead, giving it back and then surging back ahead.

The Suns jumped out to 1-0 lead with an unearned run in the second inning off Greenville starter Keith Couch. Kevin Keyes hit a two-out double to center and scored when shortstop Heiker Meneses misplayed Cole Leonida’s grounder to bring in the run.

But Hagerstown continued to have problems defensively as it committed two errors to allow three unearned runs against starter Tyler Jordan in the fourth inning to fall behind 3-1.

Vazquez led off with a single to third, beating Blake Kelso’s throw from his knees. After Miles Head singled, Brandon Jacobs reached when second baseman Adrian Sanchez dropped Kelso’s throw to load the bases.

After getting a force at home for the first out, Henry Ramos hit a sacrifice fly to right field that Keyes threw home and bounced off Leonida at the plate and into the Suns’ dugout for an error to produce two runs. David Renfroe singled off Kelso’s glove to drive in the final run.

The Suns used some Greenville misfortune to regain the lead with a three-run fourth. Jason Martinson was hit by a Couch pitch to reach first with one out and scored on Keyes’ second double, which was followed by a Leonida double to tie the game at 3. Kelso put the Suns ahead with a two-out RBI single to right for the 4-3 lead.

Hagerstown added a pair of runs in the fifth as David Freitas drew a one-out walk and took second on Brett Newsome’s single. After both runners advanced on Martinson’s grounder to first, Keyes blooped a two-run single to right to give the Suns a 6-3 lead.

Taylor Jordan allowed three unearned runs in his six-inning start, allowing six hits and striking out five. He finished with a no-decision.

“Jordan can’t get that seventh win,” Daubach said. “He pitched his butt off.”

Greenville got two runs back off reliever Wilson Eusebio in the eighth inning as Sean Coyle hit a two-out double and trotted home on Vazquez’s home run to right field to draw the Drive to within 6-5.

The Suns came back with an insurance run in the bottom of the inning off Lockwood. Sanchez, Harper and Freitas opened with singles to load the bases before Lockwood uncorked a wild pitch to bring in the run for the 7-5 lead.

But Greenville tied the game in the top of the ninth with two more unearned runs. Reliever Neil Holland hit Renfroe with a pitch with two outs to start the comeback. Meneses followed with a single before Felix Sanchez grounded a ball in the hole at short. Martinson fielded the ball and tried to get a force at second, but fired the ball into right field, allowing the two tying runs to score.

“Our bullpen has been unbelievable for the first six weeks,” Daubach said. “I kept telling the offense that they weren’t going to keep up the pace all year. It feels good to have the offense come out and pick up the bulllpen.”

Keyes had three hits and drove in three runs and Sanchez added another three hits, the biggest being the double to lead off the 10th.

“The ball finally rolled our way,” Harper said.

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