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For Suns, there's no place like home?

Suns looking forward to returning to Municipal Stadium as they attempt to secure SAL Northern Division crown

September 05, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — The Hagerstown Suns have spent an entire season proving that size doesn’t matter.

The Suns haven’t been the biggest team on the block, but they have been able to rule the South Atlantic League Northern Division playground for much of the season.

The same could be said about the crowds supporting the Suns at Municipal Stadium. They have been a small, hearty group that shows muscle when needed.

That is what the Suns will be looking for Friday night.

Hagerstown hosts Game 2 of the Northern Division playoffs at 7:05 p.m. with a chance to move into the SAL championship series with a win over West Virginia. And for the Suns, there is no place like home.

“Obviously we are excited in Hagerstown for the fans who have come out and supported us all season,” said Suns manager Tripp Keister. “They were huge during our last homestand and were excited. We’re glad to have them there.”

The Suns were on the low end of the attendance scale, but a core group of fans have turned out to follow the team.

They have been rewarded with a first-half title and an entertaining team to watch.

Now, they could have a chance to celebrate a division championship.

“A lot of teams end up playing better at home,” Keister said. “And there are a lot of visiting teams that don’t like to come and play here.”

West Virginia will be forced to come in and take that home-field advantage away from Hagerstown, especially after losing 6-1 on Wednesday in the only game the Power will host in the best-of-three set.

It will take two wins to do so, and they will have to come against a Suns team that thrives on hustle to make something out of nothing.

“That’s the way we have to play,” said Keister, the South Atlantic League’s manager of the year. “We have to be aggressive and play hard for 27 outs. We have to take chances and extra bases. We can’t play station-to-station and wait for three-run home runs. We can’t play Earl Weaver ball.”

The Suns pieced together a decisive four-run third inning on Wednesday against West Virginia using two singles, two walks, a wild pitch and a double to take a 4-0 lead.

Catcher Pedro Severino had two hits and scored twice in the game, while Wander Ramos hit the key two-run double.

Pitcher Austin Voth went five innings and teamed with Ian Dickson and Ronald Pena to snatch the road win.

The Suns will send All-Star pitcher Pedro Encarnacion to the mound for Game 2 against West Virginia’s John Kuchno (9-5). Encarnacion is 10-9 with a 3.59 ERA.

Hagerstown plays with a speedboat mentality, darting in and out for runs. All-Star second baseman Tony Renda leads the Suns and the league in games played (135), runs (99) and doubles (43) and is second in hits (153).

He has been the face of the Suns, who have had only a handful of players here all season.

Now is time for Renda, Encarnacion and the rest of the Suns to reap the rewards in a season that has been spiked by political turmoil over the state of the franchise.

The Suns’ players have put that aside for a run at Hagerstown’s second title in its 33-year history.

“They are excited to play and I think this will be a good series,” Keister said. “It’s baseball, so there are no fiery speeches I can give to get them going. We are ready to play and I think we are going to play well.”

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