Conner, Hawks blast past Dragons

Third baseman breaks out at good time for South Bend to even series

(Chris Proctor/

September 6, 2007 7:44 PM ET

Clayton Conner drilled a tiebreaking home run in the eighth inning as South Bend surged past host Dayton, 8-4, Thursday in the Midwest League playoffs.

After dropping Game 1 of the best-of-3 series at home, 3-1, the Silver Hawks responded by rallying for six runs over the final four frames. South Bend put the go-ahead run on base when Brad Miller singled to right in the eighth. A batter later, Conner blasted an inside fastball off Kevin Gunter over the center-field fence.

"I didn't even think that it was going to get out of the park," Conner said. "But for some reason, it just kept going and going. [Gunter] gave me a tough pitch because since he's a sidearmer, his fastballs tend to run in on right-handers like me and sink. When it finally went over the fence, I definitely was pretty pumped up over it."

The home run was the first hit in the postseason for Conner, who had been called up two weeks ago from Class A Short-Season Yakima. The 20-year-old third baseman was hitting .351 with nine homers and 45 RBIs in 45 games with the Bears, but had six hits in 11 games with South Bend.

"It was a little overwhelming when I first came up," Conner admitted. "I had gotten to know a bunch of the guys over at Yakima, and now I get called up with two weeks left in the season. It was a little tough at first and it took a while, but I got to know the guys here and it's helped me relax."

Facing the Dragons in the final series of the regular season was also helpful to Conner, who got a little more familiar with his new opponents.

Taylor Harbin went 3-for-5 with a leadoff double in the sixth, an RBI triple in the ninth and three runs scored. Miller was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.

Reliever Craig Pfautz (1-0) struck out one in 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Jorge Perez fanned three and worked around a hit in 1 2/3 frames for the save.

Logan Parker gave the Dragons a short-lived lead in the fifth when he delivered a three-run homer to left following back-to-back walks to Zachary Cozart and Drew Stubbs.

Gunter (0-1) gave up two runs on two hits and a walk in 1 2/3 innings.

Michael Echan is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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