One out away from taking a 1-0 lead over West Michigan in the first round of the Midwest League playoffs, the Dayton Dragons gave up a two-run double that banged off the center field wall at Fifth Third Field on Wednesday night.
In the bottom of the ninth, where the Dragons have made some of their reputation as a comeback team, there was no comeback to be had, and West Michigan bused home with a 3-2 victory, needing one more victory in the best-of-three series to advance.
Games will be played Thursday night and, if needed, Friday night.
For Dayton, which had won 16 of 21 games to end the regular season, it was heartbreaking.
“We’ve bounced back all year,” said first baseman Bruce Yari, whose two-run fourth-inning homer just over the left field wall gave the Dragons a 2-0 lead, which was 2-1 in the ninth.
Anthony Jordan, Dayton’s starter when Tony Santillan’s sore shoulder kept him out of the rotation until later in the series, was excellent. He went six innings, allowing two hits and a run. He didn’t walk any, and neither did Dauri Moreta, who worked two scoreless innings.
“We’ve been on a streak,” Jordan said. “We’ve been on fire. We know we can come back and make this a good series.”
West Michigan entered the playoffs with the best record in the league at 91-45. It won both the first and second-half championships. Dayton is in the playoffs following a second-place first-half finish.
Dayton also is the only team to hold a winning record over the Whitecaps this season, winning 11 of 19 games.
But in baseball, the past does not count toward the future, and the clock never runs out on a team.
Aaron Fossas came in to save the game in the ninth, and he almost did.
He struck out the first batter he faced, Dylan Burdeaux. The second batter, Danny Woodrow, hit a hard grounder to Fossas, which he handled with a catch and throw to first for the second out as the crowd stood and cheered.
Then, it fell apart. Daz Cameron singled to left. Cole Bauml walked with two strikes. Then Fossas hit the wall, and so did Danny Pinero, literally.
Both runners scored and the Dragons could not recover in the bottom of the ninth for their third late-inning comeback in four games.
The game took two hours and eight minutes to complete.
“(Fossas) did a pretty good job all year,” Dayton manager Luis Bolivar said. “He made maybe one bad pitch. It was a good game.”
To advance to the second round, Dayton must win the next two in West Michigan. “We’ll be alright,” Bolivar said.
Scott Moss, who went 13-6 during the regular season, gets the start Thursday night.