HAGERSTOWN — Matt Grace maximized his potential by minimizing his situation.
It was a case of shrinking a big inning and reducing little problems to nothing.
The Hagerstown starting pitcher battled through an uneasy first inning where he allowed two runs and held Greenville at bay as the Suns’ offense piled on 11 hits on Saturday en route to an 11-5 win over the Drive at Municipal Stadium.
Greenville used a walk and four consecutive singles to score two runs in the first inning. Grace worked out of the inning and set sail for a 6 1/3-inning performance boosted by nine unanswered runs by the Suns.
“I just told myself I had to keep going,” Grace said. “I had to erase the inning and go batter to batter. I told myself I had to go small. We came back with a run in the first and then got five more and we were sailing.”
Adrian Sanchez and Wade Moore each homered to get Hagerstown (34-21) started and the rest fell into place.
Greenville (26-29) got the early upper hand in the first, though.
The Drive loaded the bases with one out and got RBI hits by Brandon Jacobs and Jose Garcia to take the early 2-0 lead.
Pitching coach Chris Michalak came out for a visit after Garcia’s hit to get Grace back into his zone.
“Chris is pretty good at that,” Grace said. “He told me to stay with what I was doing … to keep the ball down. Once the ball gets out of your hand, there isn’t much more you can do. My job is to hit the glove.”
After Michalak left, Grace got Henry Ramos to ground into a double play to end the inning. After the early outburst, Grace (6-4) only allowed three hits in his final 5 1/3 innings.
“Even in the first inning, he was doing a great job,” said Suns manager Brian Daubach. “Some of those balls had eyes. It was big that he got out of that by only allowing two runs. It could have been a lot worse. The offense is swinging the bats well. We just got to keep going.”
The Suns got one of the runs back in the bottom of the inning as Sanchez hit a one-out shot to right for a home run off Greenville starter Brandon Workman (1-4) to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Moore ignited a three-run rally in the third to move the Suns into a 4-2 lead. Mills Rogers led off with a single to center and took second on Sean Nicol’s sacrifice bunt before trotting home on Moore’s two-run blast over the fence in right center. Bryce Harper reached with two outs when Workman dropped a putout throw to first, and Harper stole second, setting up David Freitas’ RBI single to cap the rally.
Hagerstown extended its lead to 6-2 in the fourth as Jason Martinson led off with a single and scored on Kevin Keyes’ double to left. Keyes scored on Mills Rogers’ single to center.
Hagerstown got a run in the sixth on an RBI double by Sanchez off Greenville reliever Gordon Flasher. The Suns added two runs in the seventh as a pair of walks led to a sacrifice fly by Nicol and an RBI single by Moore for a 9-2 lead.
Greenville got within 9-5 in the eighth on Jacobs’ three-run home run off Sam Brown.
The Suns picked up two runs in the bottom half to seal the victory on a two-run triple by Randolph Oduber, who returned to the Suns’ lineup after missing time with a hamstring injury.
Moore led the Suns with two hits and three RBIs, while Sanchez had two hits and two RBIs.