HAGERSTOWN, Md. - The Hagerstown Suns were able to pop two corks on Saturday.They first released the pressure of a tight game in the form of a three-run sixth inning.The second came off of champagne bottles in celebration of winning the South Atlantic League's Northern Division title.Hagerstown pushed across three critical runs in the sixth to extend a tenuous one-run lead and complete a yearlong quest for the division championship with a 6-2 victory over the West Virginia Power to win the best-of-3 series on Saturday at Municipal Stadium.
"We earned it," said Suns manager Tripp Keister. "We had a hard time doing it. We didn't play well last night, but we played well tonight. We wanted to be aggressive and grind it out."The victory moves Hagerstown into the South Atlantic League championship series against Savannah, the New York Mets affiliate. The Suns will host the first two games on Monday and Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. before heading to Georgia for games on Thursday and, if needed, Friday and Saturday.The team announced there will be free admission to Monday's game.Tony Renda and Shawn Pleffner led the way Saturday, driving in two runs each, while leadoff hitter Isaac Ballou had four hits and reached base nine straight times over the last two games of the series. Hagerstown collected 16 hits in the deciding game after losing a 6-3 heartbreaker in 11 innings on Friday."Ballou had a great series," Keister said. "He was struggling but I told him he had to be aggressive. He and Renda made a great pair at the top. Tony has been there all year and Shawn came up with the big two-out hits."The Suns broke the game open using the most innocent of Power mistakes to start a rally.Stephen Perez led off the sixth by striking out, but reached second when a wild pitch by West Virginia reliever Jason Creasy rolled into the Power dugout.Ballou followed with a single to move Perez to third. Renda fought off a two-strike pitch to right field to score Perez and put the Suns up 4-2.Pleffner followed with an RBI single to left and Wander Ramos blasted a double off the wall in center to complete the rally and chase Creasy from the game.Kylin Turnbull got the start and put up five quality innings, allowing two runs on six hits while walking one and striking out three. Ronald Pena came on to earn the win with four innings of relief, allowing just one hit while shutting off the Power.Like so many times this season, the Suns struck first with a run in the first inning.
Ballou reached on an infield single off third baseman Eric Wood's glove and Renda slapped a single to right to start the game against West Virginia starter Luis Heredia. After Pleffner hit into a fielder's choice, Wander Ramos looped a one-out single to right to score Ballou.But it didn't stop the Power, which came back with two runs in the second off Turnbull.Wood led off with a single to center and took third on Raul Fortunato's double down the right-field line. Jonathan Schwind singled to left to score Wood to tie the game. Fortunato scored on Chris Diaz's one-out grounder to short to give West Virginia a 2-1 lead.Hagerstown rolled the dice with aggressive base running to tie the game in the second. Pedro Severino reached on an infield single to third. With one out, Ballou lined a shot over Walker Gourley's head. Keister waved Severino around third, but he was thrown out at the plate on a relay as he tried to barrel over Power catcher Kawika Emsley-Pai.Ballou took third on the throw and scored when Renda grounded a single along the first-base line to tie the game at 2.The Suns climbed back ahead using station-to-station play in the fourth. Stephen Perez and Ballou singled to open the inning and end the night for Heredia. Creasy came on and got Renda to hit into a broken-bat double play, moving Perez to third. Pleffner cashed in by lining a single to center to give the Suns a 3-2 lead.
Renda finished with three hits, while Pleffner and Ramos had two each as the top four hitters in the Suns' batting order went 11 for 19 with six RBIs.