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Published: Wednesday, 4/9/2003

Cold cuts lead to Hen scoring feast

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish will admit he wasn't sure his team should have played yesterday.

With the game-time temperature at 32 degrees, and with dampness and fog settling on Fifth Third Field, the conditions were far from ideal for baseball.

“It was bitter cold out there - and damp,” Parrish said. “About midway through the ball game I was standing out there thinking, I wasn't sure I wanted to play. But I'm glad we did.”

That's because his team scored six runs in the first four innings and cruised to a 9-1 victory over Indianapolis. The paid attendance for the game was announced at 3,627, the smallest crowd in the two-year-old ballpark's history.

To stay warm Toledo rapped out 10 hits, including six for extra bases, and now has a .313 team batting average with 22 runs scored in three wins. The Hens are hitting just .145 in a pair of shutout losses.

“So far it seems like when we score, we score big,” Parrish said. “It's sort of an all-or-nothing thing.”

The Hens struck for a pair of runs in the opening inning off Indians starter Jamey Wright. With two outs Craig Monroe singled to center, and Kevin Witt followed with an RBI double down the left-field line.

In the second inning Cody Ross led off by golfing his first Triple-A homer over the fence in left-center. Then two outs later Andres Torres drew a walk, and scored from first when Danny Klassen tripled to right-center.

Torres used his speed to manufacture the first of three runs in the fourth. He doubled down the left-field line, stole third, then came home on a sacrifice fly by Klassen.

With two outs Witt singled, and Ernie Young pounded a two-run homer to dead center.

In the eighth the Hens put the game out of reach with a three-run rally that featured Witt's two-out, two-run single to right.

The Hens scored six of their nine runs with two outs.

“Two-out hits are about as sweet as it gets,” said Witt, who finished with three. “Any time you get those, you're going to give yourself a good chance to win a ball game.

“We came out swinging, we came out aggressive, and even our outs were hard outs. That sets the tone for the game.”

Parrish said he thought good hitters preferred hitting in the cold with runners on base.

“When you didn't have anyone on or anything going it was tougher to grind it out,” he said. “When you have men out there, especially if you're an RBI guy, that's when you want to be up there.”

Meanwhile, Hens starter Shane Loux shut out the Tribe on two hits through five innings, and the bullpen allowed just a single run in the final four.

Loux entered his first start of the season with a simple plan.

“I just wanted to go five or six good innings and keep the team in the game,” he said. “The first two or three innings it wasn't bad, but then it got really cold.”

Loux said he changed his normal pitching strategy a little bit to take advantage of the cold.

“I tried to throw inside, tried to throw sinkers in [to right-handers] and cutters in to the lefties,” he said. “I wanted to make them know they would have to get their hands inside to make good contact, and that it was going to hurt.”

Indianapolis scored its only run on a Cody McKay home run in the sixth off Steve Avery.

The Hens begin an eight-day road trip today with the first of two games in Richmond.

NOTES: The start of yesterday's game was delayed 15 minutes to aid in preparing the field. ... Hens reliever Eric Eckenstahler was hit on the right ankle by Lee Stevens' line drive. Eckenstahler suffered a contusion and his status is day-to-day.



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