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Published: Thursday, 8/12/2004

Mud Hens win rain-shortened game

SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

FORT MILL, S.C. - There was no ninth inning drama for the Toledo Mud Hens last night. As a matter of fact, there wasn't even a ninth inning.

But what the Mud Hens (60-59) did get was an end to their nine-game losing streak. Pat Ahearne tossed a two-hit shutout and Chad Alexander and Mike DiFelice clubbed back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning to lead Toledo to a 4-0 victory over the Charlotte Knights in a rain-shortened six-inning game at Knights Stadium.

"Something had to happen for us eventually," said Ahearne. "Things have been pretty rough and we were due for a win."

The Mud Hens got it by putting together what has been a rarity lately - a good all-around game.

"We haven't been pitching real well or hitting the ball or playing good defense," Toledo manager Larry Parrish said. "Other than that we've been doing pretty well. Tonight we played the opposite, and there were a lot of relieved guys in the clubhouse."

Ahearne (9-9) kept the Knights, who lost their fifth straight game, off balance with an effective sinker ball. The 34-year-old right-hander yielded only two singles, by Wilson Valdez leading off the first and Andres Torres with two out in the third.

Charlotte had only one other baserunner, as Ahearne retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced.

"I was able to work quickly and throw strikes," Ahearne said. "I wanted to go out and be aggressive and make good pitches, and the guys made the plays behind me."

Ten of the Knights 18 outs were on ground balls, and Parrish said that was a key to the victory.

"We haven't always played good defense behind him," Parrish said.

"With the sinker he throws there are going to be a lot of ground balls, and we were clean defensively."

The Mud Hens also picked up some timely hits.

Alexander, who was 3-for-3 at the plate, singled in Greg Norton for the Mud Hens first run in the second inning.

In the fourth, Alexander led off with a home run to deep center field off Knights starting pitcher Arnie Munoz. DiFelice followed with a blast to left field.

Heavy rain delayed the game for 22 minutes in the bottom of the fourth, and the Mud Hens picked up their final run in the sixth.

Alexander singled, took second when Brant Ust walked, and scored on Benji Gil's single.

The game was called 13 minutes after the umpires stopped play again at the end of the sixth inning.

NOTES: The teams complete the two-game series at 7:15 tonight. Scheduled starting pitchers are left-hander Andy Van Hekken (9-3, 4.63) for the Mud Hens and right-hander Tetsu Yofu (3-4, 5.70) for the Knights.



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