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Crawdads sweep Suns, extend lead in SAL North

June 11, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — The Hagerstown Suns have been used to uphill battles most of the season.

On Tuesday, the hill got a little steeper.

Joey Gallo went 4-for-4, including three home runs, and drove in four runs to lift Hickory to a 6-2 victory over Hagerstown in the first game of the Crawdads’ doubleheader sweep at Municipal Stadium.

Gallo’s salvo won the opening game of a crucial four-game series with Hagerstown which could very well determine the first-half champion in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division.

“That makes this next game a really big one,” said Suns manager Tripp Keister after the opener. “We have to win that one to keep up with them. We have to get out front and put some pressure on them instead of going uphill.”

However, it wasn’t to be, as Hickory defeated Hagerstown 1-0 in the nightcap on a two-hitter. It dropped the Suns 2 1/2 games back of the Crawdads with six games to play.

In the opener, Gallo gave the Suns (33-28) a tough climb from the start.

Hickory’s All-Star third baseman hit a two-run blast in the first inning off Suns starter Matt Purke (0-1) following a leadoff walk to Nick Vickerson. Gallo doubled in the third before hitting monsterous solo blasts to right in the fifth and seventh innings.

“Gallo put on a heck of a performance,” Keister said. “He was locked in. He had good at-bats and clearly was seeing the ball well. It took a lot of pressure off him because he was able to hit with the lead.”

Gallo’s three homers gave him 18 for the season, good for the SAL lead — one better than teammate Ryan Rau. The Crawdads (37-27) have 95 home runs this season, compared to 27 for the Suns.

The Suns answered Gallo’s first home run with two runs in the bottom of the first to tie the game at 2.

Tony Renda led off with a single off Hickory starter Frankie Lopez (2-0), but was erased by Shawn Pleffner’s one-out fielder’s choice grounder to first.

Brandon Miller followed with a double to the wall in left, scoring Pleffner from first. Miller came in on Will Piwnica-Worms’ bloop single over Rua’s head at second base.

“I was pleased with the way that we came back with two quick runs to tie it up in the first,” Keister said. “But then they got two more and we couldn’t answer.”

Hickory took a 4-2 lead in the third as Vickerson walked and Gallo doubled to set up the rally.

Vickerson scored when Nick Williams reached on a passed ball on a strikeout. Rua hit into a fielder’s choice grounder to score Gallo.

Lopez and closer Alexander Claudio combined to strike out 14 Suns in the seven-inning game. Claudio recorded his 11th save with two hitless innings, with six strikeouts and a walk.

“We are going to have to put the ball in play more in the second game,” Keister said.

The Suns didn’t.

In contrast to the opener, the nightcap was a pitching duel between Hagerstown’s Dixon Anderson and Hickory’s Andrew Faulkner, with each owning one-hitters through five innings.

Hickory drew first blood in the sixth, as Vickerson drew a one-out walk and scored on Williams’ two-out triple to left for the 1-0 lead, ending Anderson’s night.

The Suns tried to get the run back in the bottom of the inning as Khayyan Norfork drew a one-out walk against Hickory reliever Cody Kendall. Miller hit a two-out single to right and advanced to second on Nomar Mazara’s errant throw to the infield.

On the play, Norfork tried to circle the bases and was thrown out at home by Gallo.

Anderson (4-4) allowed the run on two hits and three walks while striking 11 in 5 2/3 innings. Faulkner (2-0) went five innings, allowing a hit and two walks with seven strikeouts.

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