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Gnats pull even with Suns in finals

September 10, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown's Tony Renda lets home plate umpire Jordan Albarado know his opinion of a called third strike Tuesday during the Suns' 6-2 loss to Savannah in Game 2 of the South Atlantic League championship series.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Savannah starting pitcher Seth Lugo took the hardest hit of the night.

But in the end, he survived the shot and took the Hagerstown Suns down for the count.

Lugo bounced back after being hit with a batted ball in the second inning to pitch six shutout innings and knock out the Suns on Wednesday to lead the Sand Gnats to a 6-2 victory and a 1-all tie in the South Atlantic League championship series.

“He pitched well and attacked the strike zone,” said Suns manager Tripp Keister. “We didn’t handle the adversity well. We knew it was going to be a long series. We have our work cut out for us. We were hoping to only have to go down there and have to win one game. Now we have to win two.”

The best-of-5 series is now a best-of-3 as the scene switches to Savannah’s Grayson Stadium for games 3 and 4 and possibly 5, starting Thursday after Wednesday’s travel day. The games will be broadcast on Hagerstownsuns.com.

“The team that played the best today won the game,” Keister said. “They pitched better and they had better at-bats than we did. I’m looking forward to getting on the road and putting this one behind us.”

The Suns didn’t play their last home game of the year anywhere near to the level they would have liked.

The Sand Gnats took advantage of the struggles of Suns starter Austin Voth to grab the lead in the second inning.

Voth issued one-out walks to Cole Frenzel, Stefan Sabol and Jeff Reynolds to load the bases for Jeff Glenn, who drove a 3-2 pitch to the gap in right-center for a two-run double.

Voth left after the hit because of an injury. Christian Meza came on in relief and promptly gave up a sacrifice fly to right by Phillip Evans to give Savannah a 3-0 lead.

The game nearly tilted back in the Suns’ direction in the bottom of the second when Stephen Perez drew a leadoff walk and took second when Isaac Ballou lined a shot off Lugo’s throwing hand as he finished his follow through. Lugo shook the hand as Savannah’s coaching staff and trainer visited and decided to stay in after a few trial pitches.

He responded by setting the Suns down on flyouts by Tony Renda and Wander Ramos around a strikeout by Shawn Pleffner, despite unleashing a wild pitch to move the runners to second and third.

“We didn’t get the big hit to get back into the game,” Keister said. “If we scored some runs there, there was still a lot of baseball to be played and we had a lot of time to get back into it.”

It didn’t happen as Lugo retired 12 of the last 15 batters he faced after being hit and left the game after allowing five hits and a walk, while striking out seven.

Savannah expanded the lead in the fifth as Suns reliever Justin Thomas lasted just one-third of an inning.

Dilson Herrera drew a leadoff walk before scoring from first on Frenzel’s double to right. After Sabol grounded to third, Reynolds singled to put runners on first and third, to set up an RBI double to right by Glenn to make it 5-0.

Thomas was lifted after walking Evans to load the bases. Derek Self came on and got two strikeouts to end the rally.

Savannah raised the lead to 6-0 in the eighth when Eudy Pino led off with a triple to right off reliever Jake Walsh and scored on Brandon Nimmo’s sacrifice fly to center.

The Suns averted the shutout in the eighth when Tony Renda and Mike McQullian singled off Savannah reliever Paul Sewald to set up Bryan Lippincott’s two-run triple off the center-field wall to cut the deficit to four runs.

Beck Wheeler pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to close out the game and give the Sand Gnats a tie in the series.

Glenn finished with three hits and three RBIs to lead Savannah, while Frenzel added two hits in the Sand Gnats’ eight-hit attack.

McQuillan had three hits and Lippincott added two and the two RBIs to pace the Suns.

“I thought they had better at-bats than us,” Keister said. “They took close pitches and fouled off a lot of pitches. They grinded out their at-bats. That’s what we do. They beat us at our own game tonight.”

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