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Published: Monday, 4/30/2007

9th inning ruins Hens

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Mud Hen Kevin Hooper will be beaten to second base by the ball and Rochester shortstop Tommy Watkins will record the out. Mud Hen Kevin Hooper will be beaten to second base by the ball and Rochester shortstop Tommy Watkins will record the out.
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Everything was just ducky for the Mud Hens entering the ninth inning of their game with Rochester yesterday. Toledo had a healthy 6-3 lead, and closer Jason Karnuth was coming into the game for a save.

So how do you describe what happened next?

"It was a good game until the ninth," Mud Hens interim manager Mike Rojas said. "Then we just blew it."

And that just about covers a ninth inning in which the Hens allowed the Red Wings to score six times and claim a 9-6 win at Fifth Third Field.

Want to know more? You don't, really. But the "highlights" included five Rochester hits, two Toledo errors, and several other mental miscues by the Mud Hens that all contributed to the team's fourth loss in the last five games.

Let's start with Karnuth, who allowed a double, a single and a double after getting the first out of the inning and eventually was tagged with six runs, not to mention his second loss in four games.

"I'm not making pitches, and when you come in in the ninth inning [the game] rests on your shoulders," Karnuth said. "I take complete blame. Put it on me, because that's exactly where it goes."

Karnuth wasn't the only Hen to accept responsibility. With the tying runs on second and third with one out, first baseman Chris Maples allowed a grounder to go through his legs for an error that allowed both runners to score.

"It was an easy play, and it just went through my legs," Maples admitted. "I should have made the play."

Even after that misplay the Hens had a chance to escape with the score still tied. With runners on first and second with one out, Tommy Watkins hit a tailor-made double-play ball back to Karnuth. But shortstop Ramon Santiago dropped Karnuth's throw to second, leaving the bases loaded.

The next hitter, Lew Ford, hit a hard grounder to third that Mike Hessman caught with a dive. Hessman's only play was to retire Ford at first, though, as the go-ahead run scored.

Preston Larrison came on to relieve Karnuth and surrendered a two-run single to Garrett Jones that put the game out of reach.

"It was frustrating," Rojas said. "We should have been out of that inning, and we should have won the ball game. Our defense didn't do the job today."

The ninth-inning implosion ruined a solid effort by Toledo starter Dennis Tankersley, who allowed just four hits and one run in his first seven innings.

"I had my sinker going pretty good to get a lot of ground-ball outs," Tankersley said. "Except for the two guys I walked I was ahead of a good majority of the hitters."

And the Hens' pitiful ninth wasted an 11-hit, six-run performance. Kevin Hooper tied his Toledo career best with four hits, and Chris Shelton collected a pair of doubles that brought home four.

"I don't see our bullpen ever giving up six runs in one inning, but sometimes fluky things like that happen," Shelton said. "But we'll run those same guys out there the next time and they'll get the job done."

"It's baseball," Maples said. "I've seen it happen the other way. The baseball gods were on our side in the beginning and their side in the end."

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: The Red Wings challenged Shelton in the seventh inning, intentionally walking Brent Clevlen to face Shelton with the bases loaded.

Shelton foiled that strategy by lacing a 1-1 pitch over the head of Wings center fielder Denard Span for a three-run double.

THREE-DOT DATA: Hooper injured a hamstring running the bases on his ninth-inning double and was removed from the game. Rojas said Hooper's status was day to day. OF Timo Perez, also nursing a leg injury, remains day to day.



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