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Published: Thursday, 5/10/2007

Mud Hens rally with 5-run ninth inning

BY DAN HICKLING
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Maybe it was the Mud Hens' rally caps, or maybe it was something more explainable, like a pair of ninth inning home runs that couldn't have come at a more opportune time.

Either way, the net result was a dramatic, 11-9 come-from-behind triumph by Toledo over the Rochester Red Wings last night before a stunned Frontier Field crowd of 4,056.

A three-run homer by Ryan Raburn, followed by Mike Hessman's two-run shot, accounted for the Hens' scoring in the five-run ninth, which saw them erase a three-run deficit.

For the Hens, who have been fighting to escape the West Division cellar, this just might be the sort of win that can turn a season around.

"Definitely," said Raburn, who, like Hessman, drove in four runs. "The way things have been going, we haven't really gotten on a roll. But wins like this can get a team going."

Toledo seemed destined for a different fate, after having blown a six-run lead in the late innings.

But matters turned their way when Rochester reliever Mike Venafro came on in the ninth and hit the first two men he faced, Ramon Santiago and Chris Shelton, then departed one out later.

By then, the Hens' dugout was alive with chatter and caps worn inside out.

"We were relaxed," said Raburn. "The whole season, we've been uptight. We haven't had a whole lot of fun. Tonight, the guys were wearing rally caps, and enjoying the game. It helped out."

So, too, did Raburn's blast, his seventh of the year, which came on an 0-1 offering from reliever Julio DePaula, and knotted the score at 9.

Raburn said he got just the pitch he was looking for.

"I've faced the guy the last few years," said Raburn. "He's a sinker-ball pitcher. He threw me a first-pitch slider and I was just waiting for a sinker ball. I was just trying to lift it, and I snuck it out of there."

Two batters later, after DePaula served up a single to Jack Hannahan, Hessman turned on another sinker, sending it into the Toledo bullpen for the go-ahead runs.

"I think this is a team that's starting to believe in itself," said Hens interim manager Mike Rojas.

"It was a great ninth inning, and good to see."

The Hens seemed to be in for an easy night when they jumped all over Rochester starter Dave Gassner, and led 6-0 by the fourth inning.

Hessman accounted for two runs in the third by lacing a double down the left-field line.

Raburn added a run in the fourth, scoring Santiago with a sacrifice fly off Red Wing reliever Jason Miller.

After pulling within 6-2, Rochester seized a 9-6 lead by sending 13 men to the plate and scoring seven times off starter Dennis Tankersley and reliever Preston Larrison.



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