Midland, Mich. – Dayton shortstop Luis Gonzalez made two outstanding defensive plays in the bottom of the ninth inning and the Dragons held off the Great Lakes Loons 4-3 on Sunday afternoon. The win was the seventh in the last nine games for the Dragons. They took two-out-of-three in the series with the Loons and went 4-2 on their two-city road trip.
The Dragons led the game 2-1 after two innings and neither team scored again until the eighth, when Great Lakes pushed across the tying run with two outs on a double to right field by Jacob Scavuzzo. The Loons nearly took the lead on the same play, but the Dragons executed an effective relay to nail a runner at the plate and end the inning. Right fielder Narciso Crook threw to first baseman Gavin LaValley, who threw home to catcher Garrett Boulware for the out on Josmer Cordero to keep the game tied.
The Dragons took the lead in the top of the ninth, scoring twice. LaValley lined a double down the right field line to start the inning. Jimmy Pickens then bunted back to Great Lakes pitcher Karch Kowalczyk, who threw to third to try to get LaValley. But the throw was off target and LaValley was safe. After Paul Kronenfeld grounded out to move Pickens to second, Garrett Boulware delivered a bouncer through the middle of a drawn-in Great Lakes infield to score both LaValley and Pickens and make it 4-2.
Great Lakes immediately got their offense going in the bottom of the ninth. Kelvin Ramos doubled to left field and scored on a double to the left field bullpen by Johan Mieses, as the Loons pulled to within a run at 4-3 and had the tying run at second base with no outs. Mike Ahmed then hit a ground ball to Gonzalez at shortstop. Gonzalez fielded the ball, alertly saw that Mieses was a few steps off second, and fired to Wendell Soto, who tagged Mieses as he slid back to the bag. The play took the tying run out of scoring position. Then with Ahmed at first and one out, Jimmy Allen hit a hard two-hopper at Dragons third baseman Ronald Bueno, but the ball deflected off Bueno and bounced to his left, toward the hole. Gonzalez, moving that direction, snagged the ball on the deflection and fired to first base. LaValley dug out a low throw in time to retire Allen on a very close play for the second out. With Ahmed now at second, Dragons reliever Brian Hunter struck out Alex Verdugo swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.
The Dragons took an early 2-0 lead in the second inning. LaValley led off with his first home run of the year. Pickens then lined a double to left and scored on Kronenfeld’s bloop over the shortstop. Great Lakes scored once in the bottom of the second on a steal of home to close out the scoring until the late innings.
Dragons starting pitcher Wyatt Strahan allowed one run on four hits in five innings, walking three and striking out six. He left the game with a 2-1 lead, pitching out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth to keep the Dragons in front. Hunter (2-1) was credited with the win.
The Dragons collected nine hits. LaValley and Boulware each had two. Soto extended his hitting streak to six straight games, the longest of the year for a Dayton player. Crook extended his hitting streak to five straight.
With the win, the Dragons improved to 13-11. They are tied for third place, two games behind Bowling Green, and one game behind Lansing.
The Dragons return home to open a three-game series at Fifth Third Field on Monday night against the Fort Wayne TinCaps at 7:00 p.m. Tejay Antone (1-2, 2.78) will pitch for the Dragons against Fort Wayne’s Yimmi Brasoban (0-0, 2.38).
All Dragons games are broadcast on radio on Fox Sports 980 WONE and on the internet at wone.com. Games are also available on the Dayton Dragons mobile app.
Notes: Soto made a tremendous defensive play in the bottom of the first inning to save two runs. With runners at second and third and two outs, he made a diving stop to his left and threw out Justin Chigbogu to end the inning.