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Published: Tuesday, 5/7/2002

Mud Hens fall in 11th

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Mud Hens shortstop Ramon Santiago waits for the ball as Durham's Ryan Freel slides into second on an attempted steal last night. Freel was called out on the play in the first inning. Mud Hens shortstop Ramon Santiago waits for the ball as Durham's Ryan Freel slides into second on an attempted steal last night. Freel was called out on the play in the first inning.
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The Mud Hens' extra-inning magic wore off yesterday.

Toledo had won three of its first four extra-inning games this season, outscoring the opposition 9-1. But it was Durham that scored in the top of the 11th inning to claim a 1-0 victory over the Hens at Fifth Third Field.

“That's what happens when you are struggling - you don't get any breaks,” said Hens manager Bruce Fields, who saw his team lose for the third time in four games.

In the top of the 11th Durham's Damion Rolls drew a leadoff walk from Terry Pearson. On the second pitch to Ryan Freel, Rolls stole second and moved to third when Pearson's pitch flew to the backstop.

With the infield in, Pearson got Freel to ground out to Ramon Santiago at shortstop, freezing Rolls at third. But new pitcher Matt Perisho saw the Bulls' Jason Smith hit a soft popup that trickled off the edge of Santiago's glove and dropped for a run-scoring hit.

“Ramon gloved it, but the ball was fading away from him and he just couldn't catch it,” Fields said. “That's a situation where you have to play the infield in. Perisho made a good pitch, but we just didn't get the result.”

In the bottom of the 11th Ryan Jackson singled and Eric Munson drew a walk off Durham closer Lee Gardner. But Chad Alexander struck out and pinch-hitter Chris Wakeland's hard grounder to first was speared by Durham's Aubrey Huff, who threw to Gardner for the game's final out.

Those 11th-inning rallies were one of the few times either team threatened to score. Toledo starter Adam Bernero was spectacular, limiting the Bulls to just four hits in eight innings and striking out nine along the way.

The right-hander dominated Durham, allowing just one runner to reach second base. And that runner, Andy Sheets, stole second base before moving to third when Craig Wilson allowed Matt Wal- beck's throw to get past him into center field.

But Bernero retired Sal Fasano on a foul popup to Walbeck and never was challenged again.

“I felt Matt and I were working well together,” Bernero said. “I was challenging guys and throwing strikes.”

Bernero struggled for the Hens last season, posting a 5.13 ERA in 26 games, and he said his mind wasn't on his pitching.

“Last year I was too worried about getting back to the big leagues, and I wasn't worried about what I was doing here,” he said. “This year I'm more confident, and I feel as if I'm in a lot more control of what I'm doing.”

Although Bernero is 0-2, he also has a 1.98 ERA and has allowed just 36 hits in 41 innings.

The problem was, last night the Hens didn't challenge Durham starter Jason Standridge, either. Toledo advanced only one runner past second base in the first 10 innings, and only two other Hens actually made it to second.

Toledo's best scoring chance came in the seventh when Derek Nicholson walked and Walbeck sacrificed him to second. Wilson's groundout moved Nicholson to third, but Nicholson was stranded there when Santiago's hard liner was snagged by the Bulls' Sheets at second base.

Fields still is confident his team, which ranks last in the IL in batting average, will break out of its slump.

“We're last in the league in hitting, but you can't tell me we don't have better hitters than that,” he said. “Some guys are trying to muscle the ball instead of using their hands and having a quiet body. That's what happens when you try too hard.”



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