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Suns end season of streaks moving upwards

September 05, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — If anything, the Hagerstown Suns proved to be creatures of habit.

They started the season with a winning streak and then ended it on another one. It was everything in the middle that defined them, though.

The Suns ended the season in style, breaking loose for all their runs and hits in the final five innings to notch a 9-1 victory over Lakewood on Monday to finish the 2011 season on a four-game winning streak.

“It’s hard to explain. We have been streaky like this all year,” said Suns manager Brian Daubach. “Back when we lost eight straight and were eliminated, the guys could have cashed it in. I’m proud of them. They stayed in and battled.”

In a season that had more ups and downs than Dow Jones and back-and-forth movement than windshield wipers, the Suns pulled out all the stops in the finale.

The streak gave the Suns (75-64, 35-34) a winning record in the second half. It was a proper closing bookend, since Hagerstown opened the season with a six-game win streak.

Ironically, those two streaks — totaling 10 games — all but made the difference in the Suns’ season, especially since they finished 11 games above .500.

Whatever the reasons, the Suns made the most of their final chances as everyone in the lineup contributed to the final victory, especially after the way it started.

Lakewood starter Austin Jackson mowed the Suns down in order through the first three innings. Jackson was a last-minute replacement for Joe Blanton, the Philadelphia Phillies starter who was scheduled to make a rehabilitation start. Blanton was a no-show because he was activated by the Phillies on Monday.

Michael Taylor broke the seal for the Suns with a leadoff double down the left-field line to start Hagerstown’s second rotation through the lineup. After Jason Martinson drew a walk, Adrian Sanchez got the Suns on the board with a double to the left-center field gap.

“We were facing a tough lefty that we had never seen before,” Daubach said of the start. “Mike’s double got us started and then we got a few scratch hits that fell in. We score in spurts. We’re streaky and once we get going, the guys feed off each other.”

The Suns finished the rally, sending 10 hitters to the plate, on Kevin Keyes’ sacrifice fly, Blake Kelso’s run-scoring single and a two-run double by Justino Cuevas for the 5-0 lead to chase Jackson after 3 2/3 innings.

Lakewood got a run back in the fifth against Suns reliever Sam Brown, who was brought in as an emergency reliever when starter Matt Swynenberg was forced to leave the game after 2 1/3 innings because of a strained oblique.

Zach Collier hit a one-out double to right off Brown and scored when Cameron Rupp hit a hard shot off the glove of Hagerstown shortstop Kelso for an RBI single to cut the deficit to 5-1.

The Suns took firm hold of the game with three runs in the sixth as Kelso ripped a one-out triple down the right-field line off reliever Tyler Knigge and scored on Adrian Nieto’s single for the 6-1 advantage. Jay Johnson replaced Knigge and didn’t fare any better.

After notching a strikeout, Cuevas singled and Taylor walked to load the bases to set up a two-run single by Martinson that put the Suns up 8-1. Hagerstown added a final run in the seventh when Randolph Oduber greeted Lakewood reliever Hector Neris with a single to center and took second on a wild pitch before Brett Newsome’s RBI single.

Brown (4-6) shut down Lakewood for 2 2/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits before Paul Applebee came on for four innings of two-hit relief to earn his second save.

“The bullpen did a great job,” Daubach said. “When Swynenberg went down, Brown went out there and did a great job. He hasn’t got a lot of results to show for how well he’s pitched. And Applebee, he’s pitched well as a starter or a reliever. He did a great job.”

Cuevas, Kelso and Newsome finished with two hits each.

The Suns drew 656 fans for the final game at Municipal Stadium to bring their 2011 attendance total to 123,593.

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