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Published: Friday, 4/9/2004

Mud Hens let one get away in opener

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Mud Hens first baseman Andy Barkett has trouble handling a throw as Durham s Midre Cummings reaches base safely. Mud Hens first baseman Andy Barkett has trouble handling a throw as Durham s Midre Cummings reaches base safely.
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There s no reason the Mud Hens had to lose their season opener yesterday.

But lose they did as Durham s Pete LaForest twice got a chance to bat in an inning that should have been over, and took advantage both times to lead the Bulls to an 8-3 victory.

A first-inning error opened the door for LaForest to hit a two-run home run, and a misplayed sacrifice in the eighth gave him a chance to hit a tie-breaking single. As a result Toledo lost its season-opening game at Fifth Third Field for the first time since the ballpark opened in 2002.

“He s a pretty good-looking hitter,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said of LaForest. “But we put him in situations he shouldn t have been in.”

Toledo pitcher Chris Dingman gets dinged for a two-run homer in the ninth inning. Toledo pitcher Chris Dingman gets dinged for a two-run homer in the ninth inning.
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The crowd of 12,250 - the largest crowd in Fifth Third Field history - barely had settled into its seats before Durham had jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

The Bulls second batter, Jason Maxwell, drilled the first pitch he saw from Toledo starter Pat Ahearne into the nets above the left-field fence for a home run.

The next hitter, Midre Cummings, hit a hard grounder that bounced off the arm of Hens first baseman Andy Barkett into right field for an error. When Matt Diaz struck out it should have been the third out of the inning. Instead, LaForest got a chance to bat and hammered a shot into the Roost for a two-run homer.

That Durham lead didn t even survive the first inning though. Rich Gomez started the Hens rally with a hard single to right off Bulls starter Dicky Gonzalez, then stole second before coming around to score on a double down the left-field line by Warren Morris.

Morris came home on a one-out single to center by Jason Smith, who went to third when Marcus Thames doubled into the left-field corner. The next batter, Barkett, fell behind 0-2 but was able to hit a ground ball to second that scored Smith.

After the first-inning fireworks both pitchers settled down. Ahearne proceeded to retire 9 of the next 11 hitters he faced, not allowing a runner to reach second until the sixth. But neither team was able to break through before Durham s game-deciding three-run rally in the eighth.

That inning began when Anton French drew a four-pitch walk from Toledo reliever Brian Schmack. Maxwell laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Schmack double-pumped before throwing to second and French beat the throw.

“In that inning there were two things that, if you do them, come back to bite you in the butt,” Parrish said. “One is to walk the leadoff guy. And we walked the fastest guy on the team - on four pitches.

“And on the bunt, I don t know if Schmack took it for granted, but he would have had the guy easily at second if he comes up throwing.”

Schmack got the next two outs and the inning should have been over. But LaForest got a chance to bat, and lined an RBI single.

After LaForest singled, Jared Sandberg drew a walk to load the bases, and Edwards Guzman greeted new pitcher Craig Dingman by lining his first pitch to right for a two-run single.

In the top of the ninth the Bulls put the game out of reach when Jorge Cantu reached base on an error and French pounded a long home run to right off Dingman.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481.



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