Dragons eliminate Midwest League's best

Dayton scores in 11th inning, stuns West Michigan in Game 3

Cassidy Brown went 4-for-12 with a double and two runs scored in the three-game series. (Nick Falzerano/Dayton Dragons)

By Jonathan Raymond / MiLB.com | September 8, 2017 11:46 PM ET

In this epic, it wasn't the Dragons who were slayed.

Dayton reached the Midwest League playoffs based on a strong first half, then finished 10 games under .500 in the second. In the postseason, the Dragons drew West Michigan, which won 91 games and shattered the league record with 28 shutouts in the regular season.

Video: Dayton's Brown scores in the top of the 11th

After losing the opener of the best-of-3 opening round, the Dragons posted a 2-1 victory on Thursday to force a decisive third game. They let a ninth-inning lead get away on Friday before Cassidy Brown scored on a passed ball in the 11th for a 4-3 victory over the Whitecaps at Fifth Third Ballpark.

"The guys did a great job, they were concentrating on being positive the whole time," Dayton manager Luis Bolivar said. "We faced elimination last night and came through, today had the same attitude -- just play inning by inning, out by out, never give up. We battled out there and a lot of credit to the guys out there."

Dayton certainly needed resilience in the clincher.

Gameday box score

The Dragons took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth and Aaron Fossas recorded two quick outs. But West Michigan used a pair of singles, a wild pitch and a walk to load the bases. Fossas got Tigers No. 10 prospect Isaac Paredes to hit a routine grounder to short, but Carlos Rivero's throwing error allowed two runs to score and sent the game to extra innings.

Video: West Michigan evens it in the ninth on an error

Brown led off the 11th with a double and took third on Rivero's sacrifice and raced home when Spenser Watkins' 2-1 pitch got past catcher Drew Longley

"That was tough right there," Bolivar said, referring to the ninth. "But I think the guys handled it well, they stayed focused. We get the final out [of the ninth] and come back to the dugout, they were a little bit down. But that's the job for our coaching staff and everybody on the bench -- cheer them up, keep them motivated and the guys came through.

"We scored in that 11th and we went out to the field and they were like, 'OK, let's do it this time, let's get it done.' And they did it. They did great."

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Alex Webb (1-0) worked around a pair of walks and struck out two in two scoreless innings to get the win.

It's proved difficult all year to keep the Dragons down. They dropped eight of 10 to start the second half, lost eight straight in July and 14 of 15 from July 29-Aug. 13. But they went 13-4 to close out August and have won five of their last six games, including two in a row against the team that finshed 22 games ahead of them in the overall standings.

"We were struggling a little bit in the second half, but the guys picked it up at the end of the year and finished strong," Bolivar said. "That's huge, the guys learning from that, getting stronger at the end of the year. So now the guys, they see they have to keep running with that."

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Michael Beltre went 3-for-5 and finished a homer short of the cycle, while Bruce Yari went 2-for-5 with an RBI on Friday.

The Dragons begin the best-of-3 semifinals against Fort Wayne on Saturday in Indiana. 

In other playoff action:

Quad Cities 8, Peoria 5

Josh Rojas and Abraham Toro-Hernandez hit back-to-back homers to fuel a four-run second inning and the River Bandits added three in the third. Patrick Sandoval held the Chiefs hitless into the fifth and ended up allowing two runs on three hits over 6 2/3 innings for the win. Quad Cities will host Cedar Rapids in Game 1 of the semifinals on Saturday. Box score


Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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