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Twisters discover unique way to win.

Byline: John Conceison

WORCESTER - Mathematically, they're out. But that hasn't stopped the Tornadoes from finding new ways to win.

How about a walk-off strikeout?

Following Tuesday night's win over Sussex in the ninth inning, Rico Santana sprinted home with the winning run in last night's ninth, after Dominic Ramos swung and missed to give the Tornadoes a 7-6 victory over the Skyhawks before 1,102 at Hanover Insurance Park.

Ramos, whose team-record 17-game hitting streak was snapped Tuesday, had a 2-2 count with the bases loaded and no outs and a 6-6 tie in the ninth, when Edisbel Benitez had him hack at a split-fingered wild pitch in the dirt.

The Worcester second baseman was out, but Sussex catcher Tom Terrill, who had eight Tornadoes steal on him last night, couldn't stop the ball from bounding off the backstop.

"That's crazy; that's just ridiculous, but we'll take it," said Ramos, who went 2 for 5 with a walk. "That was just a really good pitch he made, it just sunk, down and in, and the catcher had no chance at it."

Santana, who scored twice on wild pitches, led off the inning with a walk, then stole second. Keith Beauregard (2 for 4) also walked, the 12th yielded by Skyhawks pitching. Mike MacMillan, who delivered the winning hit in Tuesday night's 2-1 triumph, laid down a sacrifice, but Benitez (5-6) couldn't field it cleanly, loading the bases for Ramos.

Chris Shank (5-0) picked up the win, having pitched to three batters in a scoreless ninth. Behind him, Beauregard made a tremendous diving catch on Alex Frazier's line drive in center field, and Patrick Perry gunned down Scott Grimes (single) trying to steal second.

It was Worcester's second walk-off victory in as many nights, and in as many games since the Tornadoes were eliminated from playoff contention. They have won eight this season on the final play of the game.

"It shows the character of the ballclub," manager Rich Gedman said. "They've really worked hard, they probably haven't gotten what they deserve, but they come to play hard every day, and it's nice to see them get these results playing the right way at the end, by not cashing in and keeping on playing."

These Tornadoes still have a goal to shoot for - to finish .500 for the season. At 42-47 overall (18-24 second half), they have five games remaining - two more in this Sussex series and three this weekend in Quebec.

"There's pride, No. 1, you have to come out here and play hard; it's our job," Ramos said. "We have our fans, and we have to give them a show every night. We have to come out here and continue to play the way we know how to play."

At 7 tonight, Worcester faces former Tornadoes right-hander Jamie Merchant (2-2, 2.37 ERA) in what promises to be a fine pitching matchup. Righty Junior Guerrero (7-4, 3.29) goes for Worcester.

Last night, the Tornadoes chipped away at a 4-1 deficit, scoring single runs in the fourth and fifth, then collecting three runs in the sixth to take a 6-4 lead. Worcester stole three bases in the inning, and Omar Pena rolled a two-run single to right to break a 4-4 tie and give starting pitcher Alex Pena (4 runs, nine hits, 96 pitches) a 6-4 lead.

But 6-foot-5 Alex Beras relieved in the seventh, in only his sixth appearance, and couldn't hold the lead. Former Tornado Brian Rios hammered Beras' second pitch over the fence in left-center to make it 6-5, one of only two strikes Beras threw among his first nine pitches. It was his third homer allowed in only 4-2/3 innings.

The first five to face Beras reached, and the first two scored, Rob Gandolfo (walk) coming around for the tying run on Frazier's single. But Gedman stuck with the hard-throwing right-hander, who then fanned Jared Lemieux and had Terrill hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

In the eighth, Beras weathered a two-out threat to keep the score tied at 6.

"It's nice for him, he's a young guy with a good arm, and he needs some confidence," Gedman said. "He has the stuff, it's just a matter of getting the results that tell him he's OK."

The Rios brothers on the left side of the Sussex infield drove in the Skyhawks' first five runs. Third baseman Brian (3 for 5) had an RBI single in the three-run fourth, two batters after shortstop Kevin (3 for 4) connected for a two-run single.

But the last-place Skyhawks (30-58, 15-27 second half) kept putting Tornadoes on base and couldn't stop them from running. Worcester executed two double steals, including a second-and-home theft by Beauregard and Santana.



CUTLINE: Sussex second baseman Rob Gandolfo falls over Worcester's Dominic Ramos while reaching for the throw from home as Ramos safely steals second.

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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 30, 2007
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