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Published: 4/9/2004

HR hitters had no ax to grind

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Cotton candy probably was one of the good-selling concessions at Fifth Third Field yesterday, but what the crowd of 12,250 mostly wanted was a Mud Hens  victory on Opening Day. Cotton candy probably was one of the good-selling concessions at Fifth Third Field yesterday, but what the crowd of 12,250 mostly wanted was a Mud Hens victory on Opening Day.
MORRISON / BLADE PHOTO Enlarge
Manager Larry Parrish and the rest of the Mud Hens listen to the National Anthem during pregame ceremonies. Manager Larry Parrish and the rest of the Mud Hens listen to the National Anthem during pregame ceremonies.
MORRISON / BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

Jason Maxwell and Anton French may have had something to prove in leading Durham to an 8-3 victory over the Mud Hens at Fifth Third Field yesterday.

Both have some history in the Tigers organization. Maxwell played for the Hens in 1999. French was in the Detroit farm system in 1996.

Yesterday each hit a home run for the Bulls. Maxwell easily cleared the left-field fence in the first. French hit a long homer to close the scoring in the ninth.

For Maxwell it marked the second straight season he had a big game in his first game at Fifth Third Field. Last year he hit two homers and drove in five to help Louisville claim a 15-0 win over the Hens in the second game of the season.

“No, there s none of that, Maxwell said if playing his former team provided some motivation. “I just want to do well in every game we play - against every team.

French, who hit two triples in three games here for Pawtucket a year ago, said his bigger motivation is to prove his worth to the four organizations who gave up on him early in his career.

“I ve been through a lot, and that drives me, said French, who was traded three times in his first five years as a pro.

OPPORTUNITY LOST: The Mud Hens had some good chances to score against Durham reliever Dicky Gonzalez after the first inning. Toledo saw its first two runners reach base in the third and fifth.

But Gonzalez stranded runners on second and third by striking out Marcus Thames and Andy Barkett to end the third, then benefited from a curious 4-6-5 double play and a strikeout of Jason Smith to wiggle out of a two-on, none-out jam in the fifth.

“You hate to be bunting guys over in the third and fifth innings of a game, said manager Larry Parrish while noting that the heart of the Mud Hen order was coming to the plate in both situations.

In the third, clean-up batter Smith hit into a fielder s choice before the strikeouts by Thames and Barkett. In the fifth, third hitter Danny Klassen hit the ball hard but right to Maxwell at second, who forced the runner at second before catching Rich Gomez trapped between second and third.

“Maxwell made a great diving stop on Klassen s ball. He s becoming a real Mud Hen-killer, Parrish said of Maxwell. “Gomez just seemed to freeze up.

FOOLED EM: Toledo catcher Guillermo Rodriguez turned a potentially embarrassing situation into the Hens lone double-play of the day.

With one out and Pete LaForest on first, Hens starter Pat Ahearne fanned Jared Sandberg. Rodriguez, thinking the strikeout was the third out of the inning, started running towards the Toledo dugout.

LaForest, confused, started running towards second. The Toledo dugout yelled to Rodriguez, who gunned the ball to first in time to pick off LaForest for the real third out of the inning.

THREE-DOT DATA: Before the game the Mud Hens put pitcher David Cortes on the temporarily inactive list to bring their roster to 24, the limit prescribed by the IL. Cortes cannot be put on the roster before Tuesday at the earliest. ... Yesterday s attendance bettered the previous high of 12,134 fans who watched the first-ever game at Fifth Third Field in 2002.

THE LAST WORD: Ahearne was asked if he did anything different after a three-run first inning that saw the Bulls hit two home runs.

“I guess the biggest change was keeping the ball in the ballpark, Ahearne deadpanned.



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