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Published: Monday, 5/11/2009

Timely hitting elusive for Hens

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Mud Hens offense, which came to life in a win Saturday, seemed to revert to its recent struggles in Sunday's 5-3 loss to Lehigh Valley at Fifth Third Field.

But Toledo manager Larry Parrish saw more good than bad despite losing for the sixth time in the last seven games.

"We got some hits, and we're staying on the ball better," Parrish said. "We just picked the key times to not do those things.

"These last two days are what I hope to see [offensively] the rest of the year."

The Hens managed 10 hits yesterday and put at least one runner on base in all nine innings. But three double plays snuffed potential rallies, and Toledo's 1-for-9 effort with runners in scoring position blunted the effect of others.

"We had some opportunities where we'd get the leadoff man on, and [Lehigh Valley starter Justin Lehr] would throw the sinker to get a 6-4-3 double play," Parrish said. "That's just a guy working to get a ground ball and getting the job done."

Particularly painful were three at-bats with a runner on third and less than two outs. Toledo hitters struck out twice and lined weakly to third on at-bats where simply hitting the ball on the ground would have resulted in a run.

Mud Hens pitcher Fu-Te Ni tags out Lehigh Valley s Jason Ellison at fi rst base in the eighth inning. Ni threw to first for a pickoff, then made the tag in a rundown. Mud Hens pitcher Fu-Te Ni tags out Lehigh Valley s Jason Ellison at fi rst base in the eighth inning. Ni threw to first for a pickoff, then made the tag in a rundown.
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"Those at-bats are the ball game," Parrish said. "When you lose by two, putting the ball in play means we're still playing."

The IronPigs jumped ahead quickly by scoring twice in the first inning off Toledo starter Ruddy Lugo, with both runs coming home on a double by Andy Tracy.

Lugo settled down after that, allowing just three baserunners - none of whom reached second - until tiring in the sixth, when Pablo Ozuna singled home John Mayberry Jr. to knock Lugo out of the game.

Jason Ellison greeted Hens reliever Fu-Te Ni with a single off the glove of Will Rhymes at second that scored David Newhan.

"His first inning was ugly - he was lucky to get out of it," Parrish said of Lugo. "But then he wound up giving us a pretty solid ball game.

"To me, if we make the play on a ground ball [by

Ellison], he gives up just three runs in six innings, and we'll take that every day out of a starter."

The IronPigs tacked on a run in the seventh when Mike Cervenak hit his third homer of the season.

Mike Hessman was the standout at the plate for the Hens, doubling in a run in both the second and ninth while collecting a third double that set up Toledo's run in the seventh.

"I felt really good [Saturday] night as well, so I'm just trying to build off that," said Hessman, who had a double Saturday after collecting just one hit in his previous 33 at-bats. "I got off to a slow start, but things are starting to come together."

Hessman hopes that his recent resurgence will be echoed by his teammates.

"We've been kind of streaky," he said. "We started the season out great, swinging the bats well, but then we hit a rut where, if our pitching was good our hitting was not and when our hitting was good our pitching was not. That's baseball.

"But we've got a lot of guys learning how to grind it out at this level. They're working hard, and they'll figure it out."

NOTES: After the game, the Mud Hens gave RHP Nick Regilio his unconditional release. Regilio made eight appearances with Toledo and was 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA. Parrish said he hopes to have a pitcher here to replace Regilio by Tuesday but would not elaborate. OF Wilkin Ramirez left the game because of continuing problems with his right thumb. His status for this morning's 10:30 game with the IronPigs is doubtful.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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