Dragons lose in the ninth at Lansing

Lansing, MICH – Justin Atkinson scored from third base with the winning run on a passed ball during an intentional walk in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Lansing Lugnuts defeated the Dayton Dragons 4-3 on Sunday afternoon. The Dayton loss dropped them into second place in the Midwest League Eastern Division, one-half game behind South Bend.

The score was tied 3-3 going to the bottom of the ninth.   Atkinson began the inning with a ground ball to shortstop, but Dayton’s Carlton Daal bounced the throw to first base, allowing Atkinson to reach on the error. Santiago Nessy singled to right-center, moving Atkinson to third with no one out. The Dragons then called for an intentional walk of Jason Leblebijian. The fourth pitch from Dragons reliever Evan Mitchell glanced off the mitt of Dragons catcher Brandon Dailey and went to the screen, allowing Atkinson to score.

The Dragons and Lugnuts split the four-game series while South Bend swept a four-game set from Fort Wayne, allowing the Silver Hawks to move into first place. West Michigan is also one-half game behind South Bend.

The Dragons took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Brandon Dailey reached on an infield single, sent to second on an infield hit by Jon Matthews, and scored on Phillip Ervin’s two-out double down the right field line.

Lansing responded with three runs in the fifth, taking advantage of two walks, two errors, and a passed ball. Dickie Joe Thon’s two-run single highlighted the inning as the Lugnuts jumped ahead 3-1.

The Dragons rallied to tie the game in the top of the seventh when Jeff Gelalich singled, stole second, and scored on Ervin’s triple to left-center field to make it 3-2. Ervin scored on Sebastian Elizalde’s sacrifice fly to even the score.

Dragons starting pitcher Sal Romano was outstanding over the first four innings but ran into problems in the fifth. Over his first four frames, he struck out eight, one short of his career high, while allowing just three base runners and no runs.   His final line included four and one-third innings, four hits and three runs (two earned) with three walks and eight strikeouts.

The Dragons finished with 14 hits. Gelalich, Ervin, and Tanner Rahier each had three, while Daal had two. Ervin had a single, double, and triple, finishing a home run short of the cycle.

The Dragons open a six-game home stand at Fifth Third Field on Monday at 7:00 p.m. against the Great Lakes Loons. The Dragons are undecided on their starting pitcher for Monday while Great Lakes is scheduled to start Luis DePaula (1-0, 4.61).

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