Callihan hits two HRs to lead Dragons past Kernels

Tyler Callihan moved into the leadoff role for the Dayton Dragons on Tuesday night after season-long leadoff man Blake Dunn was promoted to Class AA Chattanooga. And teammates started making predictions.

Jack Rogers reminded Callihan of the leadoff homer he hit on his birthday last June 22 when both of them were playing for Daytona. Rogers said it would happen again. Then relief pitcher Brooks Crawford told Callihan he would hit two homers.

It didn’t take long for the predictions to come true. Callihan homered to start the bottom of the first and hit a two-run homer in the second inning to spark the surging Dragons to a 6-1 victory over Cedar Rapids in a game stopped after five innings because of rain.

“It was definitely good to get the boys on the board early and keep doing it,” Callihan said. “I don’t think that team had any chance even if there wasn’t rain.”

Callihan’s first homer was a first-pitch fastball. In his second at-bat, he took two breaking pitches for balls.

“Just seeing the fastball well,” he said. “And on my second at-bat there was spin on those first two, and I knew he was coming back with the fastball and he had no chance.”

Callihan has six homers this season and raised his batting average to .203.

“He did some damage early and that’s the kind of hitter he is,” Dragons manager Bryan LaHair said. “He’s a good hitter and he’s going to have those days.”

LaHair said Callihan will bat leadoff again Wednesday but that there’s not a plan right now to bat him in the spot almost every game like Dunn did.

“Blake was just doing a really good job there,” LaHair said. “I don’t know if he’s going to hit there in Double A, but that’s were we put him and he found some comfort there and handled that spot well for us. There was really no reason to move him, but if I move Tyler it isn’t a for any other reason than just moving moving guys around in the lineup. There’s really no steady, guaranteed spot for anybody.”

Wendell Marrero and Ruben Ibarra added RBI singles for the Dragons (27-25), who are two games above .500 for the first time, have won four straight and 10 of 12 to move into third place in the Midwest League’s East Division.

“We’ve just got a great environment,” Callihan said. “I said it before the season and even when we were on that losing stretch that I didn’t have a doubt about this team. Crazy talent, crazy camaraderie and we’re all playing together. It’s hard to beat us right now.”

Callihan, however, does remember the three times fellow Reds prospect Rece Hinds beat him three times as teenagers in home run derby contests at Perfect Game and Under Armour events and in the Junior Home Run Derby at the major league All-Star Game at Nationals Park in 2018.

They were drafted together in 2019 and played together in Dayton last year. Hinds is at Chattanooga now with five home runs. They have become great friends, and Hinds will be a groomsmen in Callihan’s upcoming wedding. He planned to call Hinds and let him know about his two-homer night.

“I’m gonna call him up and be like, ‘Hey, I finally hit it.’”

Dunn’s promotion: Dunn is the first big departure to Chattanooga this year. He was the league’s player of the month in April and was a team leader. He batted .276, got on base at a .411 clip, hit eight home runs, batted in 27 runs and stole 19 bases.

“His overall toughness, his speed, his work ethic and he sets the tone when it comes to working,” LaHair said. “We knew Blake had some pop. We just hadn’t seen enough games from him to really know. To be honest, he still has a long way to go and there are many games that he needs to play before he gets to the big leagues. If he just keeps putting one foot in front of the other, he works hard, you never know what can happen. I don’t see any reason for him to change.”

The Lookouts are 1 1/2 games out of first place in a race for the first-half division title in the Southern League.

“When guys get called up we’re doing our job,” LaHair said. “They’re in a playoff race right now, and he’s going to have a chance to impact that and hopefully push them over the edge.”


Kernels at Dragons, 7:05 p.m., 980

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