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Suns relief steals show, dims Power

July 03, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Relief pitchers are usually the most forgettable guys on a baseball team.

Most of them come in the middle of the game and are gone before the end.

On Wednesday, the Hagerstown Suns bullpen not only stepped into the spotlight, it stole it.

Four Hagerstown relievers did their bit parts to pitch a complete game by shutting out West Virginia on five hits, giving the Suns a three-game sweep with a 3-0 win before a crowd of 1,823 at Municipal Stadium.

With the victory, Hagerstown (47-34, 9-5) moved back into first place by a half-game over Hickory in the South Atlantic League Northern Division’s second-half race.

The game was an odd situation, but one that usually happens in the minor leagues.

“We didn’t have anyone to start. We had a hole in the rotation,” Suns manager Tripp Keister said. “(Matt) Purke was supposed to start but he got called up to (high Single A) Potomac today and we got (Kylin) Turnbull from Auburn and he had just pitched (Tuesday). We knew we were going to have to piece it together to get through.”

Keister knew just where he would turn.

He started out with Ronald Pena, a former Suns starter, and then followed with Bryan Harper, Travis Henke and Derek Self to run the table on the Power. The Suns massed their efforts — each ranging from one to three innings — to get the victory.

“They all did their parts,” Keister said. “They all pounded the (strike) zone and we got a couple of big double plays as the defense made all the plays behind them. Harper threw really well and Self came in and got a 1-2-3 ninth, which was really big.”

The Suns quartet didn’t walk a batter and only allowed three runners to reach second base. They combined for six strikeouts.

Harper (4-1), the second man to the mound, got the win, allowing two hits and getting two strikeouts over three innings.

Self struck out two to earn his second save.

Meanwhile, the Suns’ offense went about its business to bring home the win.

Once again, the Suns jumped out to an early lead, this time with a run in the first off West Virginia starter Luis Heredia (1-1), an 18-year-old prospect in the Pittsburgh organization.

Narciso Mesa led off with an infield single on a high chopper to third and took second on Tony Renda’s grounder to third. Brandon Miller drew a two-out walk before Estarlin Martinez bounced a single to center to score Mesa for the 1-0 lead.

Pena set the tone for the Suns in his three innings of work, allowing just one hit.

The game remained a pitchers’ duel until the Suns broke through for two more runs in the sixth against West Virginia reliever Ryan Hafner. They did it in assembly-line fashion.

Brandon Miller drew a leadoff walk and took second when Martinez laid down a bunt for a single. Will Piwnica-Worms put down a sacrifice bunt to the right side of the mound, setting up Stephen Perez’s two-run single to left for a 3-0 lead.

“We actually called the sacrifice bunt,” Keister said with a smile. “I don’t like doing that. I hate giving away outs, but we had to do it.

“Estarlin got that big two-out single in the first to make them go uphill after we beat them the first two games. And after the bunt, Stephen got the two-run single with two outs.”

Heredia allowed a run on three hits through five innings for the Power. Hafner pitched two innings, allowing two runs on two hits.

Martinez led the Suns with two of their five hits.

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