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Leonida lifts Suns to much-needed win

June 30, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Cole Leonida isn’t known as a home run hitter. But he showed that he is a guy who knows how to pick his spots.

Leonida connected for a two-run homer — the first of his professional career — in the sixth inning to lift the Suns to a much-needed 8-4 victory over Lakewood on Thursday to take 3 of 4 from the BlueClaws.

It was a huge comeback win for Hagerstown (5-3, 45-33) after an embarrassing 7-2 loss on Wednesday that included four errors and only four hits.

If there were a spot to hit a homer, Leonida selected the right situation. He connected the dots for the Suns. Leonida struck out the first two times up while the Suns wrestled to a 3-3 tie with the BlueClaws.

“We really needed this game, especially after the not-so-great one we had last night,” Leonida said. “It was my first home run and a lot of the guys have been giving crap about that. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

The rally started when Wade Moore drew a one-out walk off Lakewood reliever Colby Schreve — his third walk of the night — and stole second base. Leonida connected on Schreve’s 2-1 pitch and sent it over the fence in right field for a 5-3 lead.

“I was just trying to swing at a strike,” the catcher said. “I hadn’t swung at one all night. He threw me one up and I caught it. I have hit some good ones here, but they have all been off that wall in center. This time, I even hit it to the right spot on the field.”

The homer seemed to electrify the Suns, who added a couple of hits after the homer before scratching out three runs in the seventh, using two bases-loaded walks and a wild pitch to add the insurance.

“I thought we played the game with more intensity tonight,” said Suns manager Brian Daubach. “That was a good hit by Cole. He has been working real hard and it was good to see.”

After a game that seemed rather lackadaisical on Wednesday, the Suns were all business on Thursday.

The Suns got off to a quick start against Lakewood starter Garrett Claypool with a two-out rally. Bryce Harper started things off by drawing a walk and scoring on Kevin Keyes’ double to the right-field fence, before taking third on a fielding error by Anthony Hewitt. Keyes scored on Jason Martinson’s single to left center for a 2-0 lead.

The BlueClaws got one of the runs back in the second off Suns starter Sammy Solis. Domingo Santana hustled into a double on a hit to shallow center and scored on Travis Mattair’s single to right. Santana was barely safe as catcher Leonida dropped Keyes’ throw to the plate from right.

Lakewood tied the score at 2 with a run in the fourth as Anthony Hewitt led off with a single to left and beat a pickoff attempt to steal second before coming around on grounders by Santana and Mattair to score.

The Suns regained the lead in the fifth with a little help from Claypool. Adrian Sanchez hit a one-out double to left center and took third on Harper’s deep fly to right center. After Keyes walked, Claypool unloaded a wild pitch off of catcher Jeff Lanning’s chest protector to bring home Sanchez for the 3-2 lead.

Lakewood retied the game in the sixth as Lanning laced a double to center and scored on Hewitt’s single to center to make the score 3-all.

Martinson finished with three hits. Solis (2-1) allowed three runs on 11 hits and had six strikeouts in six innings to get the win.

“You are going to have games like we had last night,” Daubach said. “I said that we weren’t going to say anything about physical errors, but we had a few mental breakdowns last night. It was an ugly night, but we addressed and we are moving forward.”

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