Dragons fall in 10 despite 2 Collier homers, 4 Ibarra hits

Hit the ball hard somewhere is a swing thought for every hitter. But sometimes a soft line drive does more damage.

On a night full of hard hits, Dayton’s Hector Rodriguez came to bat in the 10th inning with two outs and Logan Tanner on second base. Rodriguez lined another hard single, his third hit of the game, to Fort Wayne right fielder Kai Murphy.

Tanner rounded third bearing down on fellow catcher and 17-year-old Ethan Salas, San Diego’s top prospect. Murphy made a perfect throw and Salas blocked the plate and applied the tag as Tanner slid into him to end the game. The Dragons lost despite 15 hits – the bottom third of the order was responsible for 11 of the team’s 17 strikeouts – and Fort Wayne escaped with s 7-6 victory to end the Dragons’ four-game home winning streak.

“We’re counting outs, we’re running out of pitchers, there’s a whole lot of things that are going through your head in that situation,” Dragons manager and third-base coach Vince Harrison said. “With the game on the line right there we got to make them do it, and, you know, Hector hit the ball too hard.”

Harrison questioned the blocking the plate rule that is meant to avoid collisions. The rule says the catcher can only do so with possession of the ball or is making it a legitimate attempt to catch the ball. Had the umpire ruled Salas improperly blocked the plate Tanner would have been called safe and the game would have continued with the score tied.

“He blocked it a lot, and that’s what I was trying to get clarity from the umpires on, and there’s still some gray area, because they couldn’t really explain what I’m supposed to teach my guys right there,” Harrison said. “It is what it is.”

The Dragons (6-6) remained in a first-place tie in the Midwest League East Division with Great Lakes. And despite the loss, the big bats in the lineup kept bringing the Dragons back to tie the score four times.

“It’s infectious energy,” said first baseman Ruben Ibarra, who broke out of a season-opening slump with four hits. “I feel like the environment is way different than last year in terms of contagiousness. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s a funny feeling, but you can feel the electricity in the dugout.”

Cam Collier, the Dragons 19-year-old first-round draft pick in 2022, provided two jolts of electricity. He tied the score 2-2 with a two-run homer in the first inning, then tied the score 4-4 with another two-run homer. Collier has five homers in 12 games and homered twice in a game for the first time as a pro. He leads the league in homers and in RBIs with 16.

“That’s what he does, and he’s always one swing away,” Harrison said.

Rodriguez, who is hitting .356, doubled to tie the score 5-5 in the sixth. In the ninth, Collier and Ibarra hit sharp singles, the Carlos Jorge lined a hit off the pitcher’s foot into shallow left field, scoring Collier with the tying run to force extra innings. The Tincaps (5-6) took a one-run lead in the 10th on Griffin Doersching’s two-out double to complete his big night of two homers and four RBIs.

Ibarra’s four hard-hit singles to different fields raised his batting average from .071 to .182. He finished recovering from surgery on the meniscus in his right knee at the start of spring training.

“It felt great, but we lost,” Ibarra said. “It sucks, but that’s how the game of baseball works.”

Ibarra led the Dragons in home runs and RBIs last year. To get his bat going along with Rodriguez, Collier and Sal Stewart would be a good sign for Ibarra and the team.

“It’s just a matter of time for him to get off,” Harrison said. “Everything is predicated on his timing. The first couple of weeks he was missing fastballs, and when he’s hitting fastballs, you saw what he did.”

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