Dragons lose 3rd straight to 2nd-place Great Lakes

The Dayton Dragons lost a third straight game Friday night for the first time this season. They struck out 16 times including three times in the bottom of the 11th inning with a runner on third base.

But just a few minutes after the game, manager Bryan LaHair talked about the next game.

“Tomorrow,” he said. “Nothing changes around here. Win, lose or draw we come back tomorrow and we’ve got a ballgame.

“After you lose, it’s never fun to be in that spot. But that’s what we’re in, so we just move on from it.”

The first-place Dragons lost to Great Lakes 4-3 in 11 innings at Day Air Ballpark. The three straight losses have been by one run and two were in extra innings. The Dragons and Loons meet again Saturday night with the Dragons trying to move closer to clinching the first-half division title in the Midwest League East.

The Dragons (36-18) lead the Loons (31-24) by 5.5 games with a magic number to clinch still at seven games with 12 to play. Lake County (28-26) lost Friday and the Dragons’ magic number to eliminate the Captains shrunk to five.

The Dragons are the third highest-scoring team in the league, but they were 2 for 18 with runners in scoring position Friday and are 4 for 39 in the past three games.

“I don’t have any concern with this group,” LaHair said. “I know this group’s resilient. They’ve been showing that all year, even tonight. Nothing’s ever going to be easy in this game, and there’s always going to be spots where a challenge comes our way. This is one of them, but every game we’re in. We’re playing tough games, we’re playing close games and we’re just falling a little short the last few days.”

The Dragons fell behind 3-2 in the third inning, but found a way to the score in seventh. Jonathan Willems singled, went to second on a wild pitch, then third on an infield single by the speedy Elly De La Cruz. Willems then scored on a wild pitch.

The Dragons made a big play in the 10th when Rece Hinds caught a fly ball in medium-depth right field and threw home. The Loons’ runner on third came halfway home before starting back for third. Catcher Mat Nelson fielded Hinds’ one-bounce throw and fired to third for the final out.

“That was tremendous focus by Mat Nelson on that play to knock that ball down, stick with the play and have the awareness to see that runner was off the bag,” LaHair said.

The Dragons came to the bat in the 10th with their fastest runner, De La Cruz, at second and Hinds at the plate. But Hinds struck out. After Alex McGarry walked, Allan Cerda struck out and Garrett Wolforth flew out to end the inning.

The Loons scored in the 11th on a one-out single by Jose Ramos. Wolforth started the bottom of the 11th at second for the Dragons and quickly moved to third on a wild pitch. But the Loons’ Brayden Fisher (2-2), who also pitched the 10th, struck out Nick Quintana, pinch-hitter Jose Torres and Justice Thompson to end the game.

Other than a difficult third inning, Dragons starter Connor Phillips kept his team in the game early and struck out six in five innings. Manuel Cachutt followed with three scoreless innings and allowed a hit and a walk. It was Cachutt’s third straight scoreless appearance. Donovan Benoit pitched three strong innings, allowing only the run in the 11th and one hit.

“Our guys came and fought hard, pitching staff did a great job, position players played good defense, we battled at the plate and had some good, long at-bats,” LaHair said. “It just didn’t fall our way tonight.”

Makeup game: The Dragons have scheduled a makeup game with Lake County on June 22. The game will start at 5:35 p.m. and be the first game of a doubleheader.

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