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Published: Saturday, 4/28/2007

Sardinha's bunt carries Hens past Red Wings

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
The Mud Hens' Mike Hessman scores after a suicide squeeze bunt from Dane Sardinha in the seventh inning. The Mud Hens' Mike Hessman scores after a suicide squeeze bunt from Dane Sardinha in the seventh inning.
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The score was tied, and for the first time all game, the Mud Hens were on the attack.

With Mike Hessman on third and Dane Sardinha at the plate, Toledo interim manager Mike Rojas called for a squeeze bunt. But rather than bunt, Sardinha swung away and lofted a fly ball into foul territory that was dropped by Rochester shortstop Tommy Watkins.

On the next pitch, Rojas again called for the bunt, and this time, Sardinha executed, scoring Hessman and clearing the way for a 6-2 Hens victory at Fifth Third Field.

"I got lucky that he dropped the ball," Sardinha said. "I was just hoping that I wouldn't do the same thing again."

After Watkins dropped the foul ball, Hessman was halfway home by the time Sardinha bunted Julio DePaula's next pitch. Hessman was safe at the plate, the suicide squeeze giving Toledo its first lead of the game in the seventh inning. Two more runs came across in the inning.

It was the second time this year Sardinha, the Hens' catcher, has successfully executed a squeeze bunt.

"I had all the confidence in the world [in him]," Hessman said.

All of the Hens' runs in the seventh were unearned thanks to three Red Wings miscues. DePaula had the second error when his throw home to try and get Hessman went through the catcher's legs.

Toledo's Jack Hannahan watches his first home run of the season clear the fence in the sixth inning to tie the game. Toledo's Jack Hannahan watches his first home run of the season clear the fence in the sixth inning to tie the game.
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Kevin Hooper followed with a two-out double to score Sardinha. Hooper scored when the Red Wings' second baseman, Matt Tolbert, bobbled a grounder and threw off-line to home to try to get him.

The squeeze broke open a game that up to that point had been dominated by the starting pitchers. Hens starter Virgil Vasquez (3-2, 3.21 ERA) won his third straight decision, going 71/3 innings and giving up two runs with six strikeouts.

"He's got a high ceiling," Rojas said. "If he continues to throw this way, a lot of good things are going to happen."

Vasquez, the reigning International League pitcher of the week, has 25 strikeouts and just two walks over his last three games.

"We're not afraid to go after hitters right now," Vasquez said. "Right now I feel like I'm just trying to throw strikes and just trying to keep hitters on the defensive with Sardinha back there calling a great game."

Rochester starter Matt Garza left the game without a decision after six innings. He gave up just three hits through five, but Jack Hannahan hit a home run to center to tie the game with two outs in the sixth. It was Hannahan's first homer of the season.

"We need him to get going, especially with a left-handed bat," Rojas said. "Hopefully that will [do it]."

In front of a crowd of 5,432, the Hens (11-10) added a run in the eighth when Hessman homered to left, his seventh of the year.

After two straight walk-off losses this week, the Hens felt good about executing and finishing off the game.

"We've been playing a lot better; we've had some opportunities to win," Hessman said. "If we just keep grinding it out, eventually we'll start coming through like we did tonight."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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