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Suns' win starts with Mooneyham on mound

August 01, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Hagerstown Suns manager Tripp Keister had many good things to talk about Thursday.

But when he assessed the Suns’ 4-1 victory over Kannapolis, he didn’t even wait for the first question.

“Brett Mooneyham was outstanding today,” Keister said. “He was outstanding.”

With that, the Suns had a starting point for one of the best games they’ve played this year.

Hagerstown did all the little things and all the main things well to stop the Intimidators.

Mooneyham (7-3) allowed a run on four hits and a walk, while striking out six.

“It all started with him tonight,” Keister said. “Our pitchers were great. They only made one mistake. He was an example of the guys who pitch on this team. He threw strikes.”

Kannapolis barely tested Mooneyham, who pitched at least seven innings for his second straight start. And with that, everything came together for the Suns.

Hagerstown (62-45, 24-16) played great defense behind Mooneyham and topped it off with its trademark timely hitting and aggressive baserunning to knock off the Intimidators.

With the win, the Suns remained 1 1/2 games behind West Virginia — which scored a run in the bottom of the ninth to defeat Lakewood — in the South Atlantic League Northern Division’s second-half chase.

Mooneyham’s only mistake came with one out in the fourth inning, when Brett Tanner hit a 1-2 pitch over the fence in right field to tie the game at 1. After that, the left-hander retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced to close out a strong performance.

“He’s more effective when he comes out and throws strikes,” Keister said.

The Suns made things easier for Mooneyham with four outstanding plays, including two big ones by left fielder Wander Ramos in the second inning when Kannapolis mounted its only other threat.

Keon Barnam hit Mooneyham’s first pitch of the inning into the right-field corner for a double. Jason Coats followed with a foul fly to left that Ramos caught while running into the fence.

Kale Kiser tried to cash in with a one-out single to shallow left that Ramos fielded and fired home, well in time for catcher Pedro Severino to tag out Barnam at the plate.

Barnam left the game with an injury, which brought Tanner in the game to play first.

 The Suns went to work on offense to take the game away.

 “Mooneyham’s pitching allowed us a chance to go out and do our thing,” Keister said. “We came through with our situational hitting and ran the bases aggressively. Those are the things we need to do.”

The Suns used their textbook style to break through in the third inning against Kannapolis starter Kyle Hansen (3-7). Estarlin Martinez drew a leadoff walk and took second on Severino’s sacrifice bunt to the mound. Stephen Perez laced a double to the fence in right-center field for a 1-0 lead.

After Tanner’s homer, the Suns regained the lead with a run in the sixth. Tony Renda drew a two-out walk and scored when Mike McQuillan ripped a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in left center to make it 2-1.

Hagerstown capped the scoring with two runs in the seventh off Kannapolis reliever Andre Wheeler. Miller led off with a chop single in front of the plate and took third when Khayyan Norfork tomahawked a high pitch to right for a double on a hit-and-run play.

Miller scored and Norfork took third on a wild pitch with Martinez batting. After Martinez walked, Severino reached on a fielders’ choice grounder to second as Norfork scored for the three-run advantage.

“McQuillan (who had been injured) is coming back. It’s a process for him,” Keister said. “He’s getting there with good at-bat after good at-bat. With Norfork, that was the first time I called a hit-and-run with him all year. We needed to do something to get things going.”

Derek Self came in and pitched the final two innings, allowing one hit while striking out five to earn his third save.

Hansen went six innings for Kannapolis, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out three. Wheeler allowed two runs on three hits in his two innings.

The Suns managed six hits, led by Miller with two, in a game that resembled what the first-half champions might need in the playoffs.

“I don’t think about (the playoffs), but that is the way we have to play,” Keister said. “All we have to do is worry about us and play the right way. There is nothing else. We will be successful as individuals and as a group if we take that approach each game.”

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