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Suns grind out win over Hickory

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

HAGERSTOWN — The Hagerstown Suns got a chance to play Hickory on their own terms for once on Thursday.

All the action was confined in Hagerstown’s yard.

The Suns kept heavy-hitting Hickory from hitting a home run and played the game in scramble mode, using a four-run seventh inning to pull out a 5-3 win to avoid a sweep of a three-game series at Municipal Stadium.

“That’s the way we have to play to win,” said Suns manager Tripp Keister. “We did a good job to grind out at-bats in that inning. We forced it a little and made our own breaks. This win was a byproduct of the way we played the game.”

For the Suns, it was a single here, a walk there and toss in a stolen base and some aggressive running. They have lived and died with that formula all season.

For Hickory, they have been powered by 130 homers in 90 games. In this game, the Crawdads (52-38, 13-7) were out of their element, although they made a gallant try at a series sweep.

With the win, the Suns (51-37, 13-8) moved back within a half-game of the South Atlantic League Northern Division’s second-half lead, setting up the possibility of a wild race in the final 50 games of the season.

“We respect them,” Keister said. “Against them, you have to execute your pitches because if you don’t, they will hurt you. These games are fun to be in.”

The Suns came back from a 3-1 deficit with an inning that featured walks, timely hitting and a fortunate bounce to rally for the win.

Will Piwnica-Worms led off with a single against Hickory reliever Joe Burns (2-3) before Craig Manuel walked to set up Wes Schill’s sacrifice bunt to advance the runners.

Narcisa Mesa followed by hitting a grounder to third baseman Nick Vickerson, who was forced to throw to the plate around Piwnica-Worms. Piwnica-Worms slid into the plate, knocking the ball free from catcher David Lyon to score.

Tony Renda drove in Manuel by avoiding a double play on a fielder’s choice grounder to third to tie the game. With two outs, Renda stole second and scored on Estarlin Martinez’s bad-hop single off second baseman Ryan Rua to give the Suns a 4-3 lead and end Banks’ night.

Jose Leclerc came on and was greeted by a Brandon Miller single, followed by walks to Bryan Lippincott and Khayyan Norfork to stretch the lead to 5-3.

Ronald Pena, who relieved starter Brett Mooneyham, pitched two innings to earn the win and Gilberto Mendez pitched the ninth to earn his fourth save.

“The game started out as a pitching duel — Mooneyham vs. (C.J.) Edwards,” Keister said. “Brett gave us a quality start but started to spray the ball when he started to tire in the sixth. That’s to be expected.”

Hickory took a 1-0 lead in the third inning as Nick Urbanus led off with a chop single in front of the plate and took second when Nick Williams walked. Vickerson advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt to set up Ronald Guzman’s RBI grounder to take the lead.

The Suns used their assembly-line approach to tie the game in the fifth.

Norfork led off with a single to left and took third on Manuel’s hit-and-run single to left through the hole created at shortstop. Hagerstown tied the game when Schill reached first after laying down a safety squeeze bunt that Edwards bobbled for an error.

Hickory regained the lead in the sixth without the benefit of a hit. Rua drew a leadoff walk and stole second before taking third on a wild pitch. After Nomar Mazara walked, Jordan Akins hit into double play to bring home the run.

The Crawdads made it 3-1 in the seventh against Pena as Williams hit a one-out single to left and scored from first on Guzman’s bloop single that fell in front of diving Miller in left.

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