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Suns notes: Nicol finds ways to lend Suns a hand

July 23, 2011

If the polling stations are opened, cast a vote to elect Sean Nicol as the unsung hero for Hagerstown Suns.

Nicol spent the early season as the utility infielder, but has been installed in left field 11 times since June 28.

Nicol admits he has been learning the position on the fly, but has played admirably in the position as basically the fifth outfielder since the Suns have shuffled outfielders after losing Randolph Oduber to a hamstring injury and Bryce Harper through promotion.

Nicol has raised his average to .300 for the season, but is hitting .459 (17-for-37) when he plays left field and had provided some consistency out of the bottom half of the batting order, hitting .328 out of the sixth spot or lower.

* The one thing no one can say about Adrian Sanchez is that he gets cheated when he bats. The Suns second baseman has hit the ball hard the entire season … some of the times, though, it has been right at someone.

That’s what makes his .273 batting average heading into Saturday’s game with Greenville so remarkable. It is easier to remember the hits he didn’t get over the ones he has to his credit.

Those times have been few lately for the second baseman. Sanchez has hit in 14 of his last 16 games (24-for-59, .408) in what has been a red-hot July. He is hitting .348 in 18 games this month.

He has come out swinging in the second half, hitting .343 (36-of-105) since the All-Star break to raise his average 28 points while continuing to play a flawless second base with only one error in the last 26 games. He has only seven miscues for the season.

* Hagerstown center fielder Michael Taylor is at his best when the heat is on. Taylor has a .243 batting average, but turns into a different hitter in clutch situations.

Taylor is hitting .375 with runners on base with two outs and .385 with runners in scoring position with two outs, providing 20 RBIs in the 39 times he has hit in that situation. He has driven in 38 runners out of scoring position as the No. 9 hitter in the batting order.

* Reliever Matt Swynenberg has come to the Suns’ rescue with two spot starts this month. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in the starts, giving the Suns nine innings in the pinch.

Swynenberg had his longest outing of the season in Thursday’s opener of the twinbill with Augusta, going five innings while allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits to earn a 4-2 victory.

Swynenberg (3-0), who is usually used in long relief situations, has all three of his victories in July.

* Blake Kelso’s batting average fell to .299 after going 1-for-6 in Thursday’s doubleheader sweep of Augusta. It represented the first time the Suns’ third baseman has dipped below the .300 standard since April 9, the third game of the season.

Kelso has been called “the catalyst” for Hagerstown offense by manager Brian Daubach ever since he inserted the Washington Nationals’ 10th-round pick in the 2010 draft into the leadoff position. He has hit .305 with 25 RBIs and 13 stolen bases while hitting first in the batting order.

But Kelso has hit a rough patch since starting for the Northern Division in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game. He is only hitting. .231 with just 20 hits, including only two for extra bases.

Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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