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Suns face Dejai's music as defense falters

August 23, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Dejai made the Hagerstown Suns face the music on Friday.

Greensboro starter Dejai Oliver — pronounced D.J. — took away all the Suns’ rhythm with seven innings of five-hit pitching as the Grasshoppers tuned out Hagerstown 9-1 to start the final regular-season homestand at Municipal Stadium.

The Suns got the early lead but couldn’t keep it as they committed three errors to open the door for a pair of Greensboro rallies, hampering the efforts of pitcher Jake Johansen in his first Hagerstown start.

“(Oliver) did a nice job. They beat us in every phase of the game,” said Suns manager Tripp Keister. “They got out ahead and we couldn’t catch them. Jake threw some nice pitches and did well. He’s got a good career ahead of him.”

Johansen (0-1) was promoted to the Suns on Tuesday to replace Brett Mooneyham, who was sent to Potomac. The 6-foot-6 right-hander was the Washington Nationals’ second-round selection — the Nationals’ first overall selection in this year’s draft.

He retired the first seven Grasshoppers he faced before issuing a one-out walk to Cody Keefer in the third. The Suns (76-52, 38-23) followed up by committing two of their three errors in the inning, which gave Greensboro the lead and put Johansen behind the eight ball.

“It was a very uncharacteristic way for us to allow them a couple of runs,” Keister said. “We haven’t been playing like that. At this level, you get a couple of errors, which elevates the pitch count and takes a pitcher out of the game.”

The loss shaved the Suns’ lead in the South Atlantic League Northern Division’s second-half race to a half-game over West Virginia with nine games to play. The Power defeated Savannah 4-3 on Friday.

The Suns jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second against Oliver (5-4) with a pair of hits to lead off the inning. Will Piwnica-Worms started with a double down the left-field line before scoring on Wander Ramos’ single to left.

From there, Oliver held the Suns to three more hits and walked only one while striking out six. Robert Ravago allowed one hit in the last two innings to close out the win.

The Grasshoppers answered with the help of Hagerstown’s first two errors in the third. Keefer took second on a passed ball after drawing his one-out walk. Cameron Flynn hit a two-out RBI single to right, before taking second on Estarlin Martinez’s errant throw to the plate. Flynn scored when Avery Romero hit a chopper along the line to third baseman Wes Schill, who made a bad throw to first.

Greensboro added two runs in the fourth when Jesus Solorzano singled to right before Vosergy Rosa hit his 23rd home run of the season — a shot to right — for a 4-1 lead.

The Grasshoppers chased Johansen from the game with a run in the fifth, with the help of another error. Flynn walked and took second when first baseman Shawn Pleffner failed to catch Johansen’s pickoff attempt. After Colin Moran drew a two-out walk, Matt Juengel singled to drive in the run for a 5-1 lead.

Greensboro added a run in the seventh against Suns reliever Ronald Pena on Solorzano’s bases-loaded fielder’s choice to short.

The Grasshoppers finished with three runs in the eighth on an RBI single by Flynn and a two-run double by Romero for a 9-1 lead.

Johansen pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

“He did a good job. He competed well, but he was upset with himself because he wanted to do better,” Keister said. “We didn’t help him with our defense tonight. We are better than that.”

The Suns finished with six hits, led by Ramos with two of them and an RBI.

* Before the game, Tony Renda was named the Hagerstown Suns’ most valuable player by the team’s fan club.

The Hagerstown Fan Club gave out its six annual awards, along with participation plaques to each player.

Renda, the second baseman, leads the Suns in doubles (40) and has played in all but two of the team’s 128 games.

Other awards were: Co-Pitchers of the Year — Brett Mooneyham and Pedro Encarnacion; Slugger of the Year — Brandon Miller; Defensive Player of the Year — Pedro Severino; Reliver of the Year — Gilberto Mendez; Community Service Award — Bryan Harper.

Mooneyham and Miller have been promoted to Single-A Potomac to finish the season.

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