Grand Rapids, Mich.—Dayton’s Cassidy Brown scored from third base on a passed ball with one out in the top of the 11th inning and the Dayton Dragons held on to defeat the West Michigan Whitecaps 4-3 in the deciding game of the Midwest League East Division playoff series on Friday night.
With the win, the Dragons advanced to the second round of the playoffs against the Fort Wayne TinCaps. The second round series is also a best-of-three set and it will begin Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. in Fort Wayne. Wennington Romero (5-10, 5.10) will start for Dayton against Fort Wayne’s Adrian Morejon (1-2, 4.23).
After the first game of the series in Fort Wayne, the battle will move to Dayton for game two on Sunday, September 10 at 7:00 p.m. at Fifth Third Field. If the series extends to a third game, it will also be played in Dayton, on Monday at 7:00 p.m.
The Dragons box office at Fifth Third Field will be open from noon to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and starting at noon on Sunday.
The Dragons won the game despite a second heart-breaking ninth inning moment in the series, just as they endured on Wednesday in game one. The Dragons led 3-1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth before West Michigan scored two runs to tie the game on an error on a dropped throw at second base on a play that would have ended the game.
But the Dragons got out of further trouble in the ninth and worked out of a jam in the 10th. Brown led off the top of the 11th with a double to the right field corner. He went to third on Carlos Rivero’s sacrifice and scored on a pitch in the dirt that went to the backstop to give the Dragons a 4-3 lead.
Alex Webb pitched a perfect bottom of the 11th and the closed out their second win in the best-of-three series.
Just as they did on Thursday, the Dragons scored one run in the top of the first inning. Randy Ventura singled to left field to start the game, stole second, and after a one-out walk to Taylor Trammell, Ventura scored on Bruce Yari’s single to center to give the Dragons an early 1-0 lead.
West Michigan immediately put together a major threat in the bottom of the first as they loaded the bases with no outs on two walks and an infield single. Dragons starting pitcher Tony Santillan got a big strikeout on a 3-2 pitch for the first out of the inning before Isaac Paredes delivered a sacrifice fly to center field to bring in the tying run. Santillan got a ground out to second base to end the inning.
West Michigan had a chance to take the lead in the fourth when they loaded the bases with one out, but Santillan got back-to-back strikeouts to work out of trouble.
The Dragons broke the tie in the sixth inning. Taylor Sparks hit a one-bouncer off the right field fence with one out and then scored from second on Hector Vargas’ single to right to make it 2-1.
Santillan, the Dragons starting pitcher, threw 93 pitches over four innings but battled out of jams and kept his team in position to win. Santillan allowed one run on four hits. He walked three and struck out six.
Joel Kuhnel provided a strong relief effort by going two and two-thirds innings of scoreless baseball. Carlos Machorro replaced Kuhnel in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs and got a strikeout to strand three. Jesse Adams pitched a perfect eighth inning.
Aaron Fossas entered the game to work the ninth, just as he did on Wednesday. And just as Fosses did on Wednesday, he retired the first two batters in the inning. West Michigan then loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. Isaac Paredes then hit a hard one-hopper to Rivero at shortstop. Rivero fielded the ball cleanly but his throw to second was not handled by Hector Vargas and rolled away as two runs scored to tie the game. With runners at second and third, Fossas recorded the final out of the inning, and Webb worked out of a two-on, two-out jam in the 10th to keep the Dragons alive.