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Suns fit to be tied in SAL North

August 29, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Starting on Friday, the Hagerstown Suns are in Phase Two of the season.

Even with four games remaining in the regular season, Friday is the beginning of the postseason.

But before they moved ahead, the Suns took care of business on Thursday.

Stephen Perez drove in five runs and Hagerstown scored 12 runs in its final three innings at bat for a 14-1 rout of Lakewood to complete the home half of the 2013 regular season.

The next time the Suns see Municipal Stadium, it will be next Friday in the second game of the Northern Division best-of-3 playoffs.

“It was a good game, but not the type of game as it looked like,” said Suns manager Tripp Keister, who was voted the South Atlantic League’s manager of the year on Thursday. “We broke the game open in the end and they just ran out of pitching. We’ve all been there.

“We continued to play but we’ve played with an eye to next week. We’ve talked about it and we want to go have fun, but it’s been off in the future. Now it’s here.”

The Suns finish the season with a four-game set in Kannapolis before heading straight to Charleston, W.Va., to face the Power in the SAL semifinals on Wednesday.

The win moved the Suns (79-54, 41-25) back into a tie with the Power for the Northern Division’s second-half title. West Virginia was defeated 4-3 by Asheville.

Lost in the shuffle of the onslaught of late runs was the five-RBI night of Perez. The shortstop had a two-run double in the sixth and added a three-run homer in a six-run eighth to key the big finish for the Suns.

“Stephen has been struggling a little with his left-handed swing,” Keister said. “He’s been working hard with (hitting coach Brian) Rupp and it showed.”

The Suns collected 12 hits against five Lakewood pitchers — one of them designated hitter Josh Ludy in the eighth — and benefitted from two Lakewood errors, 12 walks and a wild pitch.

“This was a challenging day. The playoffs start now,” Keister said. “I told them that I wanted to focus on the task at hand and then start heading to get ready for the playoffs.”

The Suns took a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning against Lakewood starter Josh Posninski.

Hagerstown strung together four straight two-out hits, but only needed the first two to score. Shawn Pleffner rolled a broken-bat grounder past the third base bag for a single and then trotted home when Wander Ramos lined a home run over the fence in right.

Lakewood broke through against Suns starter Austin Voth with a run in the fourth. J.P. Crawford led off with a single to left and scored on William Carmona’s double to the gap in left center to cut the deficit to 2-1.

The Suns nursed the lead until scoring two runs in the sixth inning on Perez’s double.

Hagerstown blew the game open by sending 10 hitters to the plate and scoring four runs in the seventh on just two hits. Lakewood reliever Lino Martinez had a wild appearance, walking four while lasting just two-thirds of an inning.

Will Piwnica-Worms drove in a run with a single before the Suns loaded the bases and scored on a passed ball. Hagerstown reloaded the bases and finished the rally when Isaac Ballou drew a walk and Tony Renda reached on an infield single off Delvi Francisto to make it 8-1.

 Hagerstown sent another 12 hitters to the plate in the eighth, scoring on a passed ball and Perez’s fourth homer of the season. Ludy came on to relieve Francisco and was greeted by a Renda infield single before allowing two more runs.

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