DAYTON, Ohio – Phillip Ervin and Sammy Diaz hit home runs in a three-run fourth inning while Daniel Wright tossed six strong frames as the Dayton Dragons defeated the West Michigan Whitecaps 8-4 on Thursday night at Fifth Third Field. The win gave the Dragons a one-game lead on the Whitecaps for the Eastern Division first half wildcard slot with 23 games to play. The Dragons remained one and one-half games behind first place South Bend.
The Dragons trailed 1-0 when Ervin blasted a long home run to left field to lead off the fourth and tie the game at 1-1. It was Ervin’s first homer of the year. Two outs later, Avain Rachal tripled to the right field corner and Diaz followed with a two-run home run to right-center to make it 3-1. It was also Diaz’s first homer of the year.
The Dragons built their lead to 6-1 in the fifth inning, loading the bases with no one out on three consecutive singles by Jamodrick McGruder, Jeff Gelalich, and Ervin. McGruder scored on an error, and Tanner Rahier’s sacrifice fly to center brought Gelalich to make it 5-1. Rachal followed with a sacrifice fly to left to score Ervin and give the Dragons a 6-1 lead. They tacked on two more in the sixth, taking advantage of an error and a wild pitch to push the lead to 8-1. West Michigan got one in the seventh and two in the eighth to close out the scoring.
Wright (3-2) was exceptional over six innings to earn the win. He allowed three hits and one run with no walks and six strikeouts. The only run against him came on a double-steal in the first inning.
Dragons reliever Scott Brattvet entered the game with two outs in the eighth inning and worked out of jam to preserve the lead before pitching a perfect ninth to close out the game.
The Dragons collected nine hits. McGruder went 3 for 4 with a walk, two stolen bases, and two runs scored in the lead-off spot of the batting order. Gelalich and Ervin each had two hits.
The Dragons improved to 26-19 with the win while West Michigan fell to 26-21. First place South Bend is 28-18.
The Dragons host West Michigan again at Fifth Third Field on Friday at 7:00 p.m. Sal Romano (3-2, 3.38) will start for the Dragons against West Michigan’s Jonathon Crawford (1-1, 2.60).
Notes: Rahier was 0 for 3 with an RBI as his hitting streak was snapped at nine straight games, the longest of the year for a Dayton player…The home runs by Ervin and Diaz in the fourth marked the first time this season that the Dragons connected on two homers in the same inning…The Dragons eight-run attack came against the league’s top pitching team. West Michigan’s team earned run average of 2.96 leads the circuit…The Dragons made a roster move before the game, placing pitcher Evan Mitchell on the disabled list and receiving pitcher Nolan Becker from extended spring training.