DAYTON, Ohio—West Michigan’s Josh Lester connected on a grand slam home run to break a 3-3 tie in the top of the 12th inning as the Whitecaps defeated the Dayton Dragons 7-5 on Friday night. With the win, the Whitecaps extended their lead to two games over the Dragons in the Midwest League East Division. West Michigan improved their record to a Minor Leagues’ best 33-14 as they dropped the Dragons to 31-16.
The Dragons battled back late in the game to erase a 3-0 deficit, scoring one run in the seventh and two more in the eighth to tie the game 3-3. The Dragons had a great chance to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth and then had additional chances to win it in the ninth and 11th innings but they could not come up with the big hit.
Trailing 3-1 in the eighth, T.J. Friedl led off the inning with a double to right field and went to third on Jose Siri’s single. Taylor Trammell followed with a triple to right-center to bring in both Friedl and Siri and tie the game. Trammell was at third with no one out, but the Dragons could not bring him in. Tyler Stephenson grounded out to shortstop with Trammell holding at third for the first out. Bruce Yari grounded to first as Trammell was thrown out at the plate trying to score from third. Brantley Bell popped out to end the threat.
The Dragons put the first two batters of the ninth inning on base and had another chance to win after Cassidy Brown walked and Luis Gonzalez reached on a bunt single. But Hector Vargas bunted into a fielder’s choice with Brown out at third and Friedl struck out. After Siri reached on an error to load the bases, Trammell struck out to end the threat.
In the 11th, Vargas doubled with two outs, but Friedl flied out to right field to end the inning.
West Michigan loaded the bases with one out in the top of the 12th when Lester blasted a home run to right field off Dragons reliever Jesse Stallings to give the Whitecaps a 7-3 lead. The Dragons scored two runs in the bottom of the 12th on Yari’s home run with Trammell on base to make it 7-5, but Bell struck out to end the game.
The Whitecaps scored two runs in the second to take an early lead on a run-scoring double by Cole Bauml and an RBI single by Danny Pinero. They added another run in the sixth on Bauml’s run-scoring single to jump ahead 3-0.
The Dragons had very few scoring chances over the early and middle innings. They had only two at-bats with runners in scoring position over the first six inning, going 0 for 2.
In the seventh, they advanced runners to first and third with only one out. Whitecaps reliever Eduardo Jimenez entered the game to strikeout Bell for the second out, but he walked Brown to load the bases and then hit Gonzalez with a pitch to force in a run and make it 3-1. Vargas flied to right to end the inning as the Dragons stranded three. Trammell’s triple tied the game in the eighth.
The Dragons collected 12 hits. Siri, Trammell, Yari, and Bell each had two.
Dragons starting pitcher Wennington Romero worked seven innings and allowed three runs on nine hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Patrick Riehl pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Stallings was outstanding over his first three innings of scoreless relief before surrendering the grand slam in the 12th. He took the loss and fell to 1-1.
The Dragons have gone to extra innings in four of their last five games, losing the last three on game-ending or game-deciding home runs. They have played 14 extra innings over their last five games.
Up Next: The Dragons host West Michigan in the second game of the four-game series at Fifth Third Field on Saturday night at 7:07 p.m. Ty Boyles (0-0, 4.26) will start for the Dragons against West Michigan’s Greg Soto (4-0, 1.26).