If there were a chance a stunning collapse like what happened to the Dragons in their previous minor-league baseball game had any lasting effect, it didn’t show Tuesday.
The Dragons pounded 15 hits, wrapped that assault in clutch pitching and responded with an 11-2 hammering of the Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays) at Fifth Third Field. Just 24 hours earlier the Dragons couldn’t hold a 7-1 first-inning advantage and dropped the series opener, 13-9.
“I’m so proud of my teammates,” said Dragons second baseman Brantley Bell, who had three hits, scored twice, had two RBIs and two nifty fielding plays.
“Hitters are coming through all the time and the pitchers have been great. I think we’ve got the best team in the league by far. We’re very confident right now and I think a lot of good things are going to happen with the Dragons this year.”
MEET THE DRAGONS: SS Luis Gonzalez
That’s a blueprint that hasn’t played out at Dayton in a while. The Dragons (8-4) secured their hold on first place in the Midwest League Eastern Division by one game over the Lake County Captains (Indians).
Game changer: The Dragons pounded losing Lugnuts starter Justin Maese (1-2) for four runs in the first inning and bunched five more in the fourth to mount a 9-0 advantage. Maese was charged with most of that offensive damage.
But Dayton had seen a similar lead overtaken by the Lugnuts. Dragons starter and winner Scott Moss (1-1) made sure that didn’t happen again. He went 5.1 innings, scattering four hits, allowing two earned runs and striking out six in what more often than not has been the norm for Dragons starting pitchers.
Dragons reliever Aaron Fossas was even better, going the final 3.2 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out three to earn his first save.
Michael Beltre, batting leadoff, and Tyler Stephenson, T.J. Friedl (batting fifth after hitting leadoff previously) and Hector Vargas all added two hits apiece.
“That was a tough loss (Monday), but I give a lot of credit to the guys,” manager Luis Bolivar said. “They stayed mentally strong and performed as well. The guys were were going after it.”
Dragons tales: How does one measure the difference in a minor-league baseball team from one season to the next? Here’s something telling: The Dragons won five games last season in which they rallied after trailing through seven innings. Through Tuesday’s game, Dayton had already done that three times.
That’s as much of a refuse-to-lose attitude as it gets.
• Who are the Dragons? Twelve players are from NCAA D-I programs, two from NCAA D-II schools, one NAIA product, one from junior college, five who signed out of high school and four who originally signed as international free agents.
Most minor-league rosters are similar in variety. The upshot? Scouts will find you if they sense potential.
On deck: Probable starting pitchers for Wednesday’s finale of the three-game series are Lansing right-hander Patrick Murphy (1-0, 4.91 ERA) and Dayton lefty Wennington Romero (1-0, 4.35).
Murphy (Chandler, Ariz.) has had more than a fair share of bad luck. He missed his senior year of high school baseball after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Next he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and had a rib removed to relieve a pinched nerve. That cost him 671 days of baseball.
Romero is one of five Dragons from the Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo).
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