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Published: Sunday, 5/7/2006

Hens take a walk in the park

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

It wasn't pretty. It wasn't glamorous.

But Mike Hessman's bases-loaded, two-out, run-scoring walk in the bottom of the eighth was like a pool of water a thirsty man finds in the middle of a desert.

That run, the Mud Hens' first after 17 scoreless innings, was enough to give Toledo a 1-0 victory over the Braves at Fifth Third Field last night.

"Over on the bench, it was like we had just hit a home run to win it [after the walk]," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "We'll take the runs any way we can get them."

Toledo's game-winning rally began with one out in the eighth inning when Ryan Ludwick worked Richmond reliever Franklin Nunez for an eight-pitch walk. Jack Hannahan's single to right sent Ludwick to second, and Josh Phelps loaded the bases with a line single to left.

Nunez got David Espinosa to hit into a fielder's choice that retired Ludwick at the plate, but Hessman worked the count full, then drew the walk by taking an inside pitch. That plated Hannahan with the game's only run.

"I was kind of looking forward to [that at-bat], because it was a chance for me to step up and help the team," said Hessman, who is hitting just .103 this season. "I've been battling, trying to get some things going, and we've been struggling with the bats. But we scraped one out and we'll come back out [today]."

Richmond starter Kevin Barry shut out Toledo through the first six innings.

The Hens were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position against Barry, whose 10 strikeouts were double his previous season high.

But Toledo starter Colby Lewis matched Barry zero for zero in his seven innings. Lewis struck out three and walked two, allowing seven hits and consistently pitching out of trouble.

In the first inning Lewis escaped a two-on, one-out jam by getting Carlos Mendez to ground into a double play, and Lewis started a double play on a grounder by Michael Ryan to wiggle out of a similar jam in the sixth.

The right-hander also stranded R-Brave runners on third base in the fifth and seventh innings. Richmond left six runners on base with Lewis on the mound.

"You always want to do well any time you go out on the mound, but when your offense is struggling we know we have to pick them up when they're down," Lewis said. "It plays out through the season - some time this season I'll give up five and they'll score me eight."

John Ennis relieved Lewis in the eighth and got two outs but also allowed two singles. Hector Mercado came on and quelled that threat by getting Ryan to hit a come-backer. Lee Gardner pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to claim his sixth save.

The good news, at least in Parrish's eyes, was that the team played better than it had Friday, when the Hens made four errors and were shut out.

"We didn't play very well [Friday], and we played well [last night]," Parrish said. "Our pitchers scattered some hits and made some pitches when they had to. And we scored with the bases loaded - they had to walk us, but we scored."

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



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