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Published: Sunday, 4/6/2003

Louisville goes batty in cold

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Louisville's Ryan Freel scores a run, a scene Toledo catcher A.J. Hinch had to watch 15 times. The Bats pounded out 20 hits while the Hens fanned 16 times. Louisville's Ryan Freel scores a run, a scene Toledo catcher A.J. Hinch had to watch 15 times. The Bats pounded out 20 hits while the Hens fanned 16 times.
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Ever heard of buzzard's luck? Yesterday it was renamed Mud Hens' luck.

Yesterday the Hens were frozen on offense, flammable on the mound, and caught short in the stands in a 15-0 loss to the Louisville Bats at Fifth Third Field.

“If you're going to lose, this was an easier game to take than a 3-2 or 2-1 [loss],” said Hens manager Larry Parrish. “In those games, you have a lot of what-ifs. There weren't a lot of what-ifs. We took a butt-whipping.”

And Toledo got whipped in all phases of the game. Louisville set Fifth Third Field records for opponents' runs in a game and an inning (eight) as well as most hits in a game (20). The 15-run margin of defeat was the Hens' biggest since moving to the new ballpark last season.

Perhaps the only good news was that not many witnessed the rout because of a game-time temperature at the freezing mark with winds that gusted up to 25 mph. Roughly 2,000 were estimated to be in the park. The Hens announced that 5,112 tickets had been sold.

Of course, as was the Hens' luck yesterday, the game also was televised locally. What's more, the attendance total snapped a string of 10 consecutive sellouts dating to last season.

Hens starter Andy Van Hekken struggled through the first inning, allowing three hits and a pair of runs. But the wheels fell off for Van Hekken in the second: The lefty retired only two of the eight batters he faced, giving up home runs to Jason Maxwell and Emil Brown as well as a double and two singles.

Van Hekken's 12/3 innings of eight-hit, eight-run ball were a far cry from last season, when he was 5-0 with a 1.82 ERA in seven starts for Toledo.

“He couldn't get the ball down, and that's exactly what he was doing in spring training,” Parrish said. “This is the first time [pitching coach Jeff Jones] and I have seen him, so we don't have anything to remember from when he was pitching well [to help him].”

Lefty Steve Avery relieved Van Hekken after Brown's home run and seemed to restore order when Juan Thomas hit a grounder to shortstop. But first baseman Derek Nicholson dropped the throw from Danny Klassen for an error, and Maxwell made his former team pay by slamming his second home run of the inning to cap an eight-run Louisville rally.

Maxwell is just the third player in Fifth Third Field history to hit two home runs in the same game and joins former Hen Eric Munson as only the second to homer twice in the same inning.

“I'm not a home-run hitter. I'm not expecting to go out and hit a lot of home runs this year,” said Maxwell, who hit just four homers in the past three seasons. “I just happened to hit two balls well and they went out. It was just one of those days where it [hitting] was contagious.”

After Maxwell's homer Avery followed with two shutout innings, but Corey Brittan was the only one of six Hen pitchers to escape completely unscathed. Brittan retired six of the seven Bats he faced in two shutout innings, but fellow relievers Fernando De La Cruz, Eric Eckenstahler and Fernando Rodney each allowed at least one run in an inning of work.

Every Bat in the lineup had at least one hit.

Meanwhile the Hens' offense was stifled by Bats starter Seth Etherton and four Louisville relievers. Etherton struck out five of the first six hitters and fanned eight in five innings.

Toledo was saddled with 16 strikeouts overall and never advanced a runner past second. What's more, the Hens had just one hit after Craig Monroe led off the fourth with a single.

“Mentally, when we got down big early we didn't push through the bad weather,” Parrish said.



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