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Published: Monday, 4/11/2005

Mud Hens' bats boom in Durham

BY DAVID DROSCHAK
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

DURHAM, N.C. - The Toledo Mud Hens expected to take an offensive hit when Marcus Thames was called up to the Detroit Tigers two games into the Triple-A season.

Not a chance.

The Mud Hens banged out 17 hits last night in a 9-5 victory over the Durham Bulls, getting 47 in their opening series to take three of four at a park that hasn't been kind to Toledo recently.

The Mud Hens were 0-6 at Durham's Athletic Park in 2004.

"It's funny because I like to come to this ball park, but I'm not so sure some of our pitchers like to come to this place," manager Larry Parrish said, referring to the short porch in left field.

But one thing is certain: Parrish liked what he saw from his offense in the opening series. In the finale, the Mud Hens had six doubles and two homers as every player in the order hit safely to rally from an early 3-0 deficit.

"We thought coming into the season we had a lot of guys who could swing the bat throughout the order," Parrish said. "We've got some pop and we felt all along we had a lot of guys who were going to put the ball into play. And we've got a lot of line-drive-type hitters mixed in with some guys who can bop it a little bit."

One of the boppers over the weekend was Chris Shelton, who started a three-run ninth with a leadoff blast to center, giving the Mud Hens a much-needed insurance run. Shelton, who made a crucial error at first base in the ninth in a 6-5 loss Saturday night, finished the series with eight runs batted in.

Not a bad first weekend.

"We kid him a little bit, we just tell him to drive more in than he lets in," Parrish said.

In addition to Shelton, newcomer Byron Gettis blasted a homer to the opposite field in the fourth inning to help start Toledo's comeback.

An error by Durham shortstop B.J. Upton - his fourth of the series - helped give the Mud Hens the lead for good in a three-run seventh.

Gettis was promoted from Double-A Erie to replace Thames.

"I just wanted to come in and do the best I could because this was the team I was with all of spring training," Gettis said. "I pretty much knew everyone here.

"When I hit the home run I had a smile on my face."

Gettis said it's nice to join a team that can swing the lumber.

"Oh yeah, we've got a great club here. That's all we do is hit," he said. "We're hitting machines."

The first four hitters in the Toledo lineup yesterday were a combined 10-for-18.

Craig Dingman replaced Mark Woodyard in the seventh after Woodyard went through a spell of wildness, throwing 11 balls in 14 pitches as the Bulls closed to 6-4 with runners on second and third and no outs.

Dingman, who allowed runs in each of his first two appearances this season, proceeded to get a pair of groundouts to the shortstop and a strikeout to allow just one more run. He struck out two more batters in the next inning for two stellar innings out of a tired pen.



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