HAGERSTOWN — The Hagerstown Suns learned a tough lesson on Wednesday.
Mark it down somewhere. It doesn’t matter how you start. It’s how you finished.
Hagerstown saw a fantastic beginning turn into a sour finish as the Suns rallied in the ninth to force extra innings, only to allow two runs in the 10th in a devastating 5-3 loss to Hickory before 1,109 fans at Municipal Stadium.
The Suns scored two runs without the benefit of a hit in the ninth to stay alive, only to give back the runs with a pair of miscues in the 10th.
The loss seriously damaged the Suns’ chances of a first-half championship in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division. Hagerstown (40-25) fell to 2 1/2 games behind division-leading Greensboro (43-23) with four games remaining. Greensboro defeated Kannapolis 13-2 to enhance its advantage.
The Suns came back from a 3-1 deficit with two runs in the bottom of the ninth by going to the bench. Pinch hitter Caleb Ramsey hit for catcher Jeremy Mayo and drew a leadoff walk off Hickory reliever Jose Mavare, who followed by walking pinch hitter Brett Newsome.
Billy Burns put the Suns in motion with a sacrifice bunt down the third-base line that Hickory catcher Jorge Alfaro threw down the first-base line to score Ramsey from second. Brian Goodwin hit a fielders’ choice grounder to second to score the tying run.
The high of the comeback didn’t last long for the Suns as Hickory scored two in the top of the 10th.
With one out, reliever Aaron Barrett came on and allowed a one-out single to Alfaro, who took second on a balk before Chris Grayson walked. Gomez scored on a passed ball by catcher Cole Leonida, who had just entered the game in the 10th for Mayo. Jhonny Gomez followed with a two-out RBI single to add the insurance run.
Phil Klein came on for Hickory in the the 10th to earn his third save and secure the win for Mavare (2-2).
The Suns grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning off Hickory starter Victor Payano with one swing of the bat.
Jason Martinson launched a two-out shot to right for a wind-aided home run, his 10th of the season and his league-leading 63rd RBI.
The final flurry tarnished an outstanding start for Kylin Turnbull, who went from on top to looking up in the snap of the fingers. The Crawdads turned the game in their favor with two runs in the seventh to put a less-than-favorable end to Turnbull’s night.
Jordan Akins hit a one-out single to left and moved to second when Gomez walked, bringing manager Brian Daubach out of the dugout.
Daubach elected to stay with Turnbull to protect the lead, but Luis Sardinas tied the game on the first pitch after the meeting with an RBI single to left. It was Turnbull’s last pitch as he was lifted in favor of Colin Bates.
Turnbull cruised through the first six innings of what was his longest outing of the season. He held the Crawdads scoreless on four hits with three walks on four strikeouts. He lost it all in the first third of the seventh inning.
Hickory’s two-run rally ended its run of 21 1/3 scoreless innings in the three-game series. The Crawdads were blanked 9-0 on Monday and 4-0 on Tuesday in a rain-shortened game before going 6 1/3 scoreless innings on Wednesday.
Alfaro gave Hickory a 3-1 lead in the eighth with a towering leadoff home run to left off Suns reliever Wilson Eusebio.