This season, the Dayton Dragons have proved they are a tough team to beat.
Which makes it all the more impressive that the Great Lakes Loons were able to beat them twice in one day.
The Loons took both games of a doubleheader at Day Air Ballpark in Dayton, Ohio, by final scores of 6-5 (8 inn.) and 4-3 (7 inn.), to sweep the twin bill over the division leaders.
In the first game, neither team was able to score in the first three innings of work. Great Lakes (30-24) got on the board with its first hit of the game, a Jorbit Vivas home run to lead off the fourth frame. It was Vivas’s fourth homer of the season, and it put the Loons in front, 1-0.
Dayton (36-17), though, would claim the lead in the bottom of the inning. Rece Hinds singled, advanced to second on a balk, stole third and scored on a throwing error to tie the game at one. Later in the inning, Allan Cerda and Justice Thompson blasted a solo shot each to put the home side up, 3-1.
The Loons, High-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, would trail by two until the sixth inning. Jonny Deluca singled to lead off the inning, then after an out, Diego Cartaya blasted his second home run of the year as a Loon, his 11th of the season overall. That longball tied the game at three runs apiece.
Once again, Dayton, the Cincinnati Reds’ High-A partner, did not take long to respond. With runners on the corners and one out, Nick Quintana drove in a run by beating out a double play ball on a high chopper to third base. That grounder re-established the Dragons’ lead, 4-3. That was the only run allowed by Robbie Peto out of the bullpen, who threw a solid 2 1-3 innings. Peto ceded a hit and a walk while also picking up a strikeout.
The Great Lakes offense came through in the top of the seventh inning, the final frame of regulation. The Loons put their first three men on base in the inning: Imanol Vargas walked, then Kekai Rios singled, setting up an RBI opportunity for Edwin Mateo. He capitalized with a single to right field to drive in Vargas. The next three Loons would go down in order, but Great Lakes tied the game at four.
Cole Percival (W, 2-0) then came in for Great Lakes, and was superb in the late-game situation. After a leadoff single, Percival spun the Dragons into a double play, then got out of the inning easily to send the game into extra innings.
In the eighth inning, the first and only bonus inning, Great Lakes got off to a hot start against reliever James Marinan (L, 2-3), who had come into the game to begin the seventh. Cartaya began the inning on second base, per rules introduced to Minor League Baseball last year, and was driven in on a leadoff double by Eddys Leonard. After an Alex De Jesus single, Jose Ramos drove in Leonard to give the Loons an insurance run. They went to the bottom of the eighth with a 6-4 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Dayton scored the placed runner on a Garrett Wolforth RBI double, but that’s all the damage they could do, as Percival continued to be effective. In his two frames of work, the right-hander allowed just two hits and one unearned run while striking out four Dragons to bring the Loons the 6-5 victory.
After an intermission of 34 minutes, the opening frame of the second game saw the Dragons take the lead. Mat Nelson blasted his fourth dinger of the year, a solo shot, to put Dayton ahead 1-0 in the first.
The Loons were held in check until the third inning, and for the second game in a row, it was a solo homer that gave the Loons their first run, this time off the bat of Ryan January – his fifth bomb of the year to tie the game at one.
Dayton went back in front in the bottom of the frame, thanks to a pair of doubles to start the inning. Jonathan Willems tagged the second two-bagger, scoring J.V. Martinez, who smacked the first one to lead off the frame. The Dragons once again had a one-run advantage, 2-1.
But Great Lakes, and January in particular, wasn’t finished. With two outs and men on the corners, January doubled to right field and drove in both runners, putting the Loons in front 3-2. January did all of his damage against the Dayton right-handed starter Thomas Farr (L, 0-2), who allowed three earned runs on six hits and a walk in four frames while striking out two.
The Loons then held the normally prolific Dayton offense scoreless in the next three frames. Nick Nastrini, who started the game, kept Dayton off the board in the fourth inning, and finished his day with four frames of three-hit, two-run ball, walking a pair while striking out eight. In his season debut, Jeff Belge (W, 1-0) shined, tossing 1 1-3 innings out of the pen. His lone blemish was a single, and he struck out three Dragons.
Each team got a run in the final frame, proving that Great Lakes needed their insurance run. It came after January was hit by a pitch, then advanced to second on an Ismael Alcantara single. Both runners advanced a base on a passed ball before Vivas drove in January with a single.
Ryan Sublette (SV, 4) toiled in the seventh and final inning, allowing a run on two hits, but worked his way out of it to earn the save and confirm the Loons’ win, 4-3. He needed 36 pitches for his 1 2-3 innings, and he did walk a pair, but also picked up two strikeouts in yet another high-leverage situation for the former Texas Tech Red Raider.
With the pair of wins, the Loons take a 2-1 series lead over the Dragons, sitting in decent position to hand Dayton its first series loss of the year. Great Lakes still sits second, now 6.5 games behind Dayton in the Midwest League East division standings, with 12 games to play in the first half. The winner of each division in each half claims a spot in the playoffs. Game four of the six-game series from Day Air Ballpark is set for 7:05 p.m. Friday. Loons lefty Lael Lockhart (1-0, 2.29 ERA) gets the start, opposite Dayton righty Connor Phillips (3-2, 2.57 ERA). Pregame coverage begins at 6:50 p.m. on ESPN 100.9-FM with the Loons On-Deck Circle, driven by Garber Chevrolet Midland.
The Great Lakes Loons have been a Single-A partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers since the team’s inception in 2007. Dow Diamond serves as the team’s home and also houses the Michigan Baseball Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, and ESPN 100.9-FM. For tickets or information about the Loons, call 989-837-BALL or visit Loons.com.