Dragons lose Sunday; Monday battle to decide series

DAYTON, Ohio—The Fort Wayne TinCaps avoided elimination with a 6-0 victory over the Dayton Dragons on Sunday night at Fifth Third Field in the second game of the best-of-three Midwest League Eastern Division Championship Series.

The series is now even at one win apiece.  The series will continue with the third and deciding game on Monday night at 7:00 p.m. at Fifth Third Field.  The Dragons will need a win on Monday to advance to the league championship series for the first time in franchise history.

On Sunday night, Fort Wayne took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Brad Zunica and Marcus Greene Jr. connected on back-to-back home runs.  Then in the third, Fort Wayne took a commanding 5-0 lead with three more runs.  The TinCaps loaded the bases with no one out and cashed in without a ball being put in play.  Dragons starting pitcher Matt Blandino issued a bases loaded walk to force in a run to make it 3-0.  Blandino was replaced by Lucas Benenati, who walked the first batter he faced to force in another run, then hit the next batter as Fort Wayne took a five-run lead.

Benenati stayed in the game and retired the next 13 batters, leaving at the end of the seventh without allowing another base runner.  But the Dragons could not score against Fort Wayne starter Reggie Lawson or any of the TinCaps three relievers.  Lawson earned the win, going five innings and allowing four hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

The Dragons best chance to score came in the third when they loaded the bases with two outs, but Lawson struck out Taylor Sparks to end the threat.  In the fifth, the Dragons got a pair of singles from Randy Ventura and Taylor Trammell, but Bruce Yari grounded out to end the inning.

The Dragons finished with just five hits, all singles.  Ventura was 2 for 4.

Blandino was charged with the loss.  He worked two and one-third innings, allowing five runs on four hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

On Monday, Andrew Jordan (7-8, 4.66) will start for the Dragons against Fort Wayne’s Michel Baez (6-2, 2.45).  The winner of Monday’s game will advance to the MWL Championship Series and meet the West Division champion.  Cedar Rapids and Quad Cities will play the third and deciding game of their West Division playoff series on Monday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Notes:  Dragons outfielder Michael Beltre left the game in the third inning with a lower leg injury suffered on a slide into second base.  Beltre was helped off the field, unable to put any weight on the leg.  His status going forward was not known late Sunday night.

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