- Mark Katz Contributing Writer
Once the Bowling Green Hot Rods took a three-run lead on the Dayton Dragons, and once they led by two.
The Dragons tied it and took a lead.
Twice the Dragons held two-run leads over Bowling Green.
Twice the Hot Rods tied it.
That’s the way it was in the ninth inning, when Bruce Yari came to the plate following consecutive walks to Dayton’s best hitters, Jose Siri and Taylor Trammell.
Yari is Dayton’s cleanup hitter, and he only needed to get one run home, which he did with a scorching single to center as the Dragons beat the Hot Rods 9-8 on Wednesday at Fifth Third Field to begin their final home stand of the regular season.
“I knew he was going to throw me a fastball,” said Yari, who said the first pitch was a curve. “He wasn’t going to walk three guys in a row.”
Dayton has won 10 of 11 games and 13 of the last 16.
There are five games left in the regular season, an off-day, then the playoffs begin Wednesday.
The Dragons qualified for the playoffs with a second-place finish to the first half, then floundered in the second, until recently. The players don’t seem to get down when they are down.
“They have confidence now,” manager Luis Bolivar said. “They keep fighting.”
Dayton committed three errors in the first four innings, falling behind 3-0 and 5-3.
They had hitting explosions in the third, fifth and sixth, including back-to-back home runs in the fifth from Taylor Sparks and John Sansone to take a 6-5 lead.
Sparks, who was the Midwest League’s batter of the week for Aug. 21-27, bombed a two-run homer to left followed by a high homer by Sansone way over the left field foul pole the Hot Rods thought was foul.
Sansone, who also contributed a two-run single in the third, raised his RBI total to 58 and home run total to 13 despite a .220 batting average.
“I’ve hit the ball pretty well,” Sansone, a second baseman, said. “I’ve had some bad breaks.”
It looked as though the bad breaks were going to go the way of the Dragons since after Siri’s two-run triple in the sixth gave Dayton its second two-run lead, the Hot Rods came back to tie the game, the second run on a double steal in the eighth.
Hard-throwing Peter Bayer was Bowling Green’s pitcher in the ninth, and he quickly walked Siri and Trammell — who also had two hits and an RBI.
That brought up Yari. Two pitches later, the game was over.