Dayton, Ohio—Dayton starting pitcher Jake Paulson fired seven shutout innings, Luis Gonzalez collected three hits and drove in two runs, and Cory Thompson added a home run as the Dragons defeated the South Bend Cubs 6-1 on Friday night at Fifth Third Field. The win was the 11th in the last 12 home games for the Dragons.
The return home marked a return to winning ways for the Dragons after they had lost the previous four on the road and had lost 11 of the last 12 road games overall. They took an early 3-0 lead to take command and built the lead to 6-0 by the end of the fourth inning.
Paulson’s seven-inning night was the longest of his professional career. He allowed just five hits and no walks and seven strikeouts. Paulson improved to 4-3 with the win.
The game had an unusual element when home plate umpire Brock Ballou suffered a hand injury in the bottom of the sixth inning and was forced to leave for x-rays. After a 12-minute delay, base umpire Tyler Olson moved behind the plate and officiated the remainder of the game solo, hustling to get into position for calls at all bases as well as calling balls and strikes.
The Dragons three-run second inning rally began when Gavin LaValley singled to center field with one out and Garrett Boulware was hit by a pitch. Avain Rachal singled to right to load the bases. South Bend starting pitcher James Norwood uncorked a wild pitch to bring in LaValley to give the Dragons a 1-0 lead. Jonathan Reynoso then grounded to shortstop Gleyber Torres, who threw home to try to get Boulware. The throw easily beat the runner, but Boulware came in hard and dislodged the ball from the glove of the catcher. Ballou, the plate umpire, ruled Boulware out, apparently for illegal contact with the catcher. Dragons manager Jose Nieves argued aggressively and was ejected from the game by Boulware. The Dragons were left with Rachal at third, Reynoso at first, and two outs.
With Luis Gonzalez at the plate, Reynoso stole second, and when no one covered second base, the catcher’s throw sailed over the bag and into center field, allowing Rachal to score and Reynoso to go to third. Gonzalez then singled to shallow left, bringing in Reynoso to make it 3-0.
Thompson belted a lead-off home run in the third to make it 4-0. It was his first home run of the year. The Dragons added two more runs in the fourth as Boulware singled, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Gonzalez’s single to center. Reynoso, who had walked, eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Thompson to make it 6-0.
South Bend scored their only run on an eighth inning solo home run by Jeffrey Baez.
The Dragons finished with nine hits. Gonzalez was 3 for 4 with two RBI. LaValley was 2 for 4 with a run scored.
The Dragons (17-18 in the second half; 56-49 overall) battle the Cubs (16-19, 45-57) in the second game of the set on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. at Fifth Third Field. Tyler Mahle (11-5, 2.41) will start for Dayton against South Bend’s Jake Stinnett (4-4, 4.92).