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Suns' rally comes up a run short

August 27, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — There is some infinite wisdom for why Abner Doubleday gave each team 27 outs per game when he invented baseball.

That’s because every one of them is precious.

The Hagerstown Suns realized that Tuesday. The only problem was they wasted the first 15 and made the most of the last 12.

In this case, the majority won.

The Lakewood BlueClaws scored five times in the first four innings with the help of four Suns errors and a home run by Art Charles, then held on as Hagerstown rallied but fell short in a 6-5 decision.

“I’m really proud of the way the guys came back,” said Suns manager Tripp Keister. “We spotted them too many runs early. The beauty of baseball is there are 27 outs. If you get down early, you can still hang up some zeroes and get back into the game. We were right there and had a chance in the last inning.”

The Suns (77-54, 39-25) lost for the third time in four games and fell out of a tie with West Virginia for first place in the South Atlantic League Northern Division’s second-half race. The Power scored a 5-2 win over Asheville to take a one-game lead over the first-half champion Suns with six games to play.

Hagerstown trailed 5-0 after four innings and was down 6-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth. The Suns loaded the bases in each of the last two innings, scoring twice in the eighth. They had runners on second and third with one out, but failed to produce the tying run.

The Suns were in prime position to tie the game in the eighth with two runs against Lakewood reliever Kevin Walter.

Shawn Pleffner hit a one-out single to left and Wander Ramos walked to end Walter’s night. Delvi Francisco came in and uncorked a wild pitch to advance the runners to second and third.

Estarlin Martinez drove in one run by grounding a single to right, before Will Piwnica-Worms and Pedro Severino drew consecutive walks to cut the deficit to 6-5.

Isaac Ballou, who just joined the Suns on Tuesday, and Tony Renda led off the ninth with singles off Chris Burgess. The pair pulled a double steal as Pleffner struck out to set the table for the possible rally. Ramos struck out before Mike McQuillan was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Martinez grounded to second to end the game for Burgess’ fifth save.

“We just came up short,” Keister said.

Lakewood wasted no time jumping on Suns starter Pedro Encarnacion (10-8) with three runs in the first inning.

Charles hit a drive to right for his 11th home run of the season.

Lakewood expanded the lead to 5-0 in the fourth without the benefit of a hit with the help of two Suns error. Brian Pointer led off with a walk and Chance Numata reached when Tony Renda misplayed a grounder at second.

After both runners advanced on Larry Greene Jr.’s grounder to third, Gabriel Lino hit a fly to right field. Wander Ramos caught the ball and fired home to cut off the run. The throw was there well before Pointer, but he hit catcher Pedro Severino with a high tackle to jar the ball loose to score. The ball rolled into the Suns’ dugout, allowing Numata to cross the plate for a 5-0 lead.

“Pointer made a good, clean play,” Keister said. “He could have been out at the plate and instead of getting out of the inning, they got two runs. We still had a lot of baseball left to play.”

BlueClaws starter Jeb Stefan held the Suns to one hit through the first five innings with the help of some stellar Lakewood defense. Shortstop J.P. Crawford and second baseman Angelo Moran made a number of premium plays, along with two key running catches by Pointer in right, to keep the Suns off the board.

“You got to give them all the credit,” Keister said. “The shortstop and second baseman made some really good plays. We were hitting the ball, but it wasn’t falling in.”

Hagerstown finally broke through in the sixth inning. Renda and Pleffner hit back-to-back doubles to produce the Suns’ first run before Ramos hit his sixth homer with a drive over the fence in center to cut the deficit to 5-3.

The BlueClaws picked up an insurance run in the eighth against Suns reliever Ronald Pena on a two-out double by Lino.

Encarnacion lasted five innings, allowing five runs (two earned) on four hits, while walking two and striking out one. Stefan (5-7) allowed three runs in six innings.

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