Dragons fall to Kernels, East-Division lead trimmed to 1/2 game

Dragons right fielder Rece Hinds watches a home clear the wall in right-center field during a game earlier this season at Day Air Ballpark. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

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Dragons right fielder Rece Hinds watches a home clear the wall in right-center field during a game earlier this season at Day Air Ballpark. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

The Cedar Rapids Kernels pushed across the winning run with no one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, defeating the Dayton Dragons 4-3 on Sunday afternoon. 

The Dayton loss coupled with a win by second-place Great Lakes cut the Dragons lead to one-half game in the first-half playoff race with four games to play. The Dragons magic number to clinch a first-half division championship remained at four, while Great Lakes’ magic number now also stands at four.

The Dragons are off Monday and open a series vs. Lake County at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday at Day Air Ballpark. Great Lakes opens a series Tuesday at Fort Wayne.

On Sunday, the Dragons took an early lead when the second batter of the game, Rece Hinds, belted a solo home run to left field. Cedar Rapids scored one run in the bottom of the first and another in the second to take a 2-1 lead.

The Dragons tied the game in the fourth when new Dayton catcher Daniel Vellojin walked, raced from first to third on a single to center by Jose Torres, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Austin Hendrick to make it 2-2.

In the seventh, Dayton’s Nick Quintana blasted a tie-breaking home run to left to give the Dragons a 3-2 lead, but Cedar Rapids pushed across a run in the bottom of the same inning to tie the score, 3-3.

In the bottom of the ninth, a lead-off double followed by a game-winning hit by Cedar Rapids catcher Frank Nigro, playing his first game with the Kernels, gave them the win against Dayton closer Donovan Benoit (1-2).

Dragons starter James Proctor pitched six innings and allowed two runs on four hits with two walks and eight strikeouts.

TUESDAY’S GAME

Lake County at Dayton, 7:05 p.m., 980