Dayton Dragons blank Great Lakes for fourth straight win

If it wasn’t for closely monitored pitch counts in minor league baseball, Dayton’s Graham Ashcraft and Great Lakes’ Bobby Miller might have dueled into the night.

Still, the two highly regarded prospects were dominant as the first-place Dragons won their fourth straight with a 1-0 victory Friday.

“That’s the game that you’re going to see at the next level,” Dragons manager Jose Moreno said. “That’s a good thing for the fans to to see a game like that at this level.”

Miller is rated the No. 5 prospect in the Dodgers’ organization by Baseball America. He’s 22 and a first-round pick in the 2020 draft out of Louisville. Miller has hit 100 mph at times this season, but he topped out at 97 Friday when he retired the first 11 Dragons. After allowing a hit to Francisco Urbaez in the fourth, Miller left the game with his pitch count at 58 and his season ERA at 1.00.

Ashcraft is rated the No. 28 prospect in the Reds’ organization. He’s 23 and was drafted in the sixth round out of UAB in 2019. Ashcraft hit 99 mph several times in the first inning and topped out at 98 thereafter. Ashcraft pitched six innings, allowed two hits, walked two and struck out a season-high 10 on 82 pitches, lowering his ERA to 2.67.

“They were attacking, using their fast and breaking balls,” Moreno said. “There’s major-league talent right there for both sides.”

The Dragons scored in the seventh the best way they know how. Quincy McAfee led off with a walk and advanced to second when Urbaez grounded out to shortstop on a hit-and-run play. With two outs, Eric Yang doubled to the gap in right-center and McAfee scored easily.

Otherwise, the relievers for both teams combined to allow three hits in 7 1/3 innings. Andy Fisher (1-1) pitched 1 2/3 for the Dragons and Jake Gilbert the final 1 1/3 for his first save.

The Dragons were held to a season-low three hits for the third time this season. Meanwhile, the Dragons ended a 26-game hitting streak by Loons leadoff hitter Miguel Vargas, who was 0-for-4.

The Dragons (20-14) lead West Michigan by 1.5 games in the High-A Central League East Division and are 9-1 against the Loons (16-18). Moreno doesn’t have an answer for the success against the Loons other than giving credit to how his players approach each game.

“What I can say is the resilience of this team,” he said. “These kids they have a big heart, they play hard all the time and no matter what they grind. They try to do as baseball players whatever it takes to win, and that’s why we have the outcome.”

Lyon Richardson, the Dragons highest rated pitching prospect at No. 13 in the organization, starts Sunday and is coming off his worst start on Tuesday when the Dragons fell behind 7-0.

“He’s very aggressive and this is going to be his second outing after the injury, so we’re going to push the pitch count and little bit and we’re going to try to get to the counts we didn’t get to last time,” Moreno said. “We want to see him go five, maybe six, strong innings.”

Kids program: Another fan feature is returning to Dragons games. Kids ages 7-13 can sign up at to be a Kroger Baseball Buddy. Winners receive tickets to a game, a custom jersey and other items and get to be part of the starting lineup for a game. The grand prize is an afternoon at the park with their family and friends for a picnic on the field, games with the Dragons Green Team and mascots and other prizes, including a shopping spree in the Dragons Den Team Store.

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