West Michigan (36-34, 72-68) finished the regular season with identical 36-34 records in each half, boasting the third-best overall record in the Eastern Division and ranking fifth in the entire Midwest League at 72-68.
Despite the loss, the Whitecaps put on a defensive clinic for a Labor Day crowd of 6,091.
It started with the first batter of the game, who drilled a liner back to the mound that was snared out of the air by starting pitcher Chad Smith.
West Michigan took the lead in the bottom of the second inning. Jason King started the frame with a double and moved to third on a base hit by Lance Durham. Later in the frame, Brandon Loy contributed a sacrifice fly and Zach Maggard reached on a two-out error that allowed Durham to cross the plate for a 2-0 advantage.
Determined to avoid a season-ending sweep, however, the Dragons took over from there.
Sean Buckley tied the score with a two-run homer in the fourth, although Smith limited the damage by teaming up with Maggard on a perfectly executed strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play to end the inning.
With reliever Shawn Teufel on the hill in the fifth, Dayton seized the lead for good. Taylor Wrenn ripped a two-run double inside the first base line for the go-ahead hit and subsequently scored on a single by Junior Arias for a 5-2 edge.
Jeff McVaney tripled and scored in the sixth to pull the 'Caps to within 5-3, but that was as close as they could get.
The standout defensive plays continued in the top of the eighth. Juan Silva smoked a liner into left-center to lead off the inning, but center fielder Chad Wright got a great jump and gave the crowd a thrill with a tremendous running catch in the alley. Later in the inning, the Dragons added a run and had men at second and third when Spencer Dickinson fisted a blooper into foul ground.
Second baseman Brandon Loy raced through shallow right field and towards the bullpen where he made a one-handed over-the-shoulder catch. He then whirled around and fired a strike to the plate, where Maggard was waiting with the ball to tag out a runner trying to score from third.
Ismael Guillon (2-0) earned the win for Dayton, turning in a tremendous performance in which he struck out nine batters over seven innings while allowing just two earned runs.
Teufel (0-1) suffered the loss in his only appearance of the year for West Michigan, giving up four runs on seven hits over four innings of work.