Dayton starter Lyon Richardson motions toward home plate during their game against the Lansing Lugnuts on Thursday night at Fifth Third Field. The Dragons won 7-2. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER

Dayton Dragons open second half with win

The Dayton Dragons began the second half the same way they ended the first half — as one of the hottest teams in all of minor league baseball.

The Dragons wracked up 11 hits, beating the Lansing Lugnuts 7-2 in front of 8,069 fans on Thursday night at Fifth Third Field. It was the Dragons’ 12th victory in 16 games this month.

It was the first time in four years Dayton opened the second half with a victory.

“The second half is huge,” said Dragons manager Luis Bolivar. “You start from scratch again. The last two weeks of the first half, the guys created some momentum and built some confidence. It will help to carry over into the second half, hopefully we continue it through the entire second half.”

Dayton finished 28-42 in the first half, 16.5 games behind first-place Great Lakes. But the Dragons ended the first half with an 11-4 record this month, including a 10-game winning streak from June 2 through 12.

“It was huge,” Bolivar said. “They feel like they have confidence to win some games. (Tonight) was a good game for the guys. I’m proud of what they did and we want to keep it rolling.”

The Dragons are one of six teams in contention for the postseason in the second half. Great Lakes won the first half, while the Lake County Captains placed second, each clinching playoff berths.

Dayton’s Jay Schuyler, Pabel Manzanero, Juan Martinez and Bren Spillane each had two hits for the Dragons.

“We’re going out there and having fun playing baseball and playing the way we know how to,” Spillane said. “We’re going out there, competing and not thinking about anything besides that.”

Brian Rey had a single and two RBIs, extending his hitting streak to nine straight games.

“The guys are taking good at-bats,” Bolivar said. “It’s good to see. It’s contagious. When everybody is getting hits, other people follow.”

Dayton took an early 1-0 lead in the second inning on a sacrifice fly by Brian Rey. The Lugnuts tied the score two innings later on a two-out walk to the Lugnuts Jesus Severino.

It wouldn’t be tied for long. Dayton tied the score on a double by Spillane and then took a 3-1 lead on single by Rey. Spillane entered the game having gone 3-for-19 in the Dragons’ last two series, but came up with two big hits in the victory.

“I’ve been getting out of my approach,” Spillane said, “but I really thought about it over the break and realized that regardless of the results, it’s about sticking to that approach and getting a ball I can hit.”

The Lugnuts pulled to within one run in the fifth when Gabriel Moreno tripled, scoring Reggie Pruitt to make it 3-2.

The Dragons would add another run in the fifth inning. Miguel Hernandez singled to lead off the inning and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Randy Ventura. Hernandez appeared to be picked off at second base, but broke for third and scored on a throwing error by Rafael Lantigua to make it 4-2.

Dayton has been aggressive on the basepaths this month, stealing 28 bases, tops in the entire Midwest League. Hernandez and Michael Siani each stole a base in the victory.

“We’re running the bases hard and putting pressure on the defense,” Bolivar said. “We’re finding ways to manufacture runs. We did it at the right times and it paid off.”

Dayton broke the game open in the sixth. Schuyler singled to start the inning, moved to third base on a single by Pabel Manzanero and scored on a single by Juan Martinez to give the Dragons a 5-2 lead. With the bases loaded and one out, Manzanero and Martinez each scored on a wild pitches by Lugnuts reliever Marcus Reyes to make it 7-2.

Dragons starter Lyon Richardson pitched 4.2 innings, allowing two runs on five hits with seven strikeouts. Alexis Diaz earned his sixth victory of the season, allowing one hit in 2.1 innings of relief. Matt Pidich didn’t allow a hit in two innings of scoreless relief to end the game.

East wins All-Star game: Manzanero was the lone Dragons player selected to the Midwest League All-Star game in South Bend, Ind. on Tuesday, going 0-1 with a walk.

The East Division won 4-3 in unique fashion — a sudden-death Home Run Derby.

The score was tied 3-3 after nine innings, sending the game into sudden death. Kane County’s Blaze Alexander hit one home run in his 90 second round for the West Division, but Bowling Green’s Chris Betts hit two HRs to seal the victory for the East Division.

Streak snapped: Ventura went 0-for-3, snapping an 11-game game hitting streak. It was the longest streak of the year for a Dragons player.

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