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Suns go short way to earn sweep over Hickory

June 13, 2013

HAGERSTOWN — The Hickory Crawdads win games by hitting balls far.

The Hagerstown Suns remain in championship races by taking shorter routes.

Hickory pitcher Jose Leclerc made an errant throw on Will Piwnica-Worms’ sacrifice bunt on the bottom of the ninth, allowing Brandon Miller to score from first and give the Suns a 6-5 victory and a doubleheader sweep on Wednesday at Municipal Stadium.

The victory and the sweep moved the Suns to within a half-game of Hickory for the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division lead with four games remaining in the first half.

It not only offset the sweep the Crawdads scored over the Suns on Tuesday, but it allowed Hagerstown to stave off possible elimination from the race. The Suns (35-28) won the opener 10-3.

Hickory (37-29) used three home runs to produce four of the five runs it scored against Hagerstown pitching. The Crawdads lead professional baseball with 99 home runs on the season. The Suns pieced together their rallies.

Hickory third baseman Joey Gallo hit two homers in the nightcap — five in the four-game series — to take over the SAL lead with 20.

But it didn’t stop the Suns, who played aggressively on Wednesday because a possible championship hung in the balance.

The Suns tied the game in the sixth inning to force extra innings and settled in for extra innings.

Leclerc (1-4) came on in the eighth inning as Hickory’s fourth pitcher of the game and escaped the inning despite issuing two walks.

Leclerc hit Miller with a pitch to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Piwnica-Worms turned to bunt, trying to move Miller into scoring position. Instead, Leclerc fielded the ball and threw it away, allowing Miller to circle the bases for the winning score.

The Suns host Lakewood (25-38) in a four-game series to end the half, while Hickory will host Delmarva (28-35).

Hickory took a 3-0 lead as Suns starter Pedro Encarnacion never got out of the first inning.

Gallo hit a solo shot and Nomar Mazara added a two-run shot to give the Crawdads their early lead.

Encarnacion left after allowing four hits in two-thirds of an inning and was replaced by Will Hudgins.

The Suns battled back to take a 4-3 lead in the third off Hickory starter Randy Bores.

Hagerstown batted around as Tony Renda led off with a single and took second on a Stephen Perez grounder. Shawn Pleffner singled to drive in the run and went to third on Brandon Miller’s double.

Will Piwnica-Worms grounded to short to score Pleffner and Miller crossed the plate on Mike Foat’s single to right. Wes Schill and Pedro Severino followed with singles to bring home Foat for the one-run lead.

Hickory tied the game in the fifth on Gallo’s second homer of the game and took a 5-4 lead in the sixth on Lewis Brinson’s RBI groundout.

The Suns tied the game in the bottom of the sixth as Wilmer Difo bunted for a one-out single, which forced Hickory to bring in closer Alex Claudio. Difo took second on Renda’s grounder and scored the tying run on Perez’s single to center.

Gilberto Mendez (1-0), the Suns’ sixth pitcher of the game, went two innings, allowing a hit and a walk, while striking out four to earn the victory.

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