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Suns stay alive in first-half chase

June 12, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Sometimes, desperate times call for desperate measures.

The Hagerstown Suns met one of those times on Wednesday and took the measures to quell the desperation.

The Suns threw caution to the wind and came out swinging in the opening game of their second doubleheader in two days against Hickory. With a more aggressive approach, Hagerstown turned back the Crawdads 10-3 to keep its hopes alive for a first-half championship.

The Suns scored early and tacked on insurance — led by Wilmer Difo with a homer and four RBIs — to move back within 1 1/2 games of the South Atlantic League Northern Division-leading Crawdads.

“I thought we answered the night they had with this first game,” said Suns manager Tripp Keister. “This makes the second game really big.”

Hickory swept the Suns on Tuesday to open a 2 1/2-game lead. Had the Crawdads swept the Suns on Wednesday, it would have ended the first-half chase for Hagerstown.

But there was still life.

“I had a good talk with the pitchers and the position players today,” Keister said. “I told them it was all about playing for something and competing in the last six games (of the half). Let’s go out and have fun while competing.”

Hagerstown did its best to attack Hickory starter Tyler Smith aggressively early in at-bats.

Khayyan Norfork painted the left-field line on the first pitch for a one-out double and scored when Brandon Miller hit the second pitch he saw for an RBI single to center with two outs to give Hagerstown a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

“We try to do that all the time, but that’s the things we have got to do,” Keister said. “We had to hunt for fastballs. I told them to be borderline reckless.”

It continued in the second as Estarlin Martinez and Stephen Perez drew consecutive one-out walks. Craig Manuel hit a bouncing ball off shortstop Luis Marte’s glove for an error that scored Martinez. Difo followed by grounding into a fielder’s choice at second to score Perez for a 3-0 lead.

After Hickory got a run back in the fourth with Nick Williams’ home run off Suns starter Brett Mooneyham, the Suns’ aggressiveness took the Crawdads out of the game.

The Suns answered with two outs in the bottom of the inning on Difo’s three-run homer to right for a 6-1 lead.

Hagerstown put the game away with four runs in the fifth off Hickory reliever Sam Stafford. Norfork led off with a walk and Shawn Pleffner singled — his third hit of the game — before each advanced on a double steal. Will Piwnica-Worms doubled to the left-center field gap to score both runners.

Martinez followed with an RBI double and Manuel hit a two-out RBI single to right to give the Suns a 10-1 lead.

Travis Henke took over for Mooneyham in the sixth and Hickory took advantage of the change. Williams drew a one-out walk and Ryan Rua hit a two-run home run to right center — his 18th to tie for the SAL lead — to make it 10-3.

Mooneyham (2-1) allowed a run on two hits and three walks with five strikeouts to earn the victory.

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