First-place Dragons sweep doubleheader, boost winning streak five games

Dragons right fielder Rece Hinds watches his third home run of the season, a solo shot, clear the wall in right-center field in the second inning during the first game of Wednesday night's doubleheader. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

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Dragons right fielder Rece Hinds watches his third home run of the season, a solo shot, clear the wall in right-center field in the second inning during the first game of Wednesday night's doubleheader. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

The experts said Rece Hinds was supposed to start the season hitting well for the Dayton Dragons. He carried Baseball America’s label of “Best Power Hitter” in the Reds’ organization and was rated the Reds’ No. 9 prospect.

But Hinds entered Wednesday’s doubleheader with .143 batting average, two home runs and four RBIs. He almost equaled both of those totals against Lake County in the first game of a doubleheader.

Hinds hit two homers over 400 feet and drove in three runs in the first-place Dragons’ come-from-behind 8-7 victory in the first game and added two singles in the 5-1 victory that followed.

“It was awesome,” Hinds said. “I’ve been slumping a little bit lately and trying to work in the cages and just trying to get my swing back to how it was. It felt great to actually show that work paying off.”

Hinds and hitting coach Daryle Ward began talking two weeks ago about how he needed to swing through his back hip and keep his hands back. Hinds said he worked and worked on it to get his mechanics and timing right.

“I had a couple drills that we did and then it finally just clicked a couple days ago,” Hinds said. “And it just felt right tonight.”

Hinds said he knew by the loud crack of the bat that both homers were gone when he connected.

“Sound is a big part of it for sure,” he said. “Hearing it clean off the barrel is just a great feeling. I haven’t really had that feeling all season.”

Dragons manager Bryan LaHair noticed the work Hinds put in to get his swing right.

“This game’s not easy,” he said. “Just being able to work hard, make some adjustments and just continue to believe in yourself is real important, and that’s exactly what he’s doing. I look forward to watching him walk to the plate every single time.”

Hinds’ night, however, ended prematurely when he was ejected in the third inning of the second game. He was at second when Lake County pitcher Aaron Davenport came off the mound to field a slow grounder. He turned to throw first and slipped and fell. Hinds tried to take advantage and score, but Davenport met him about 10 feet up the baseline with a tag. Hinds objected to the way he was tagged and shoved Davenport.

The benches emptied and it took about 20 minutes to sort out the ejections and lineup changes. Elly De La Cruz and Justice Thompson of the Dragons were tossed. For the Captains, Davenport, catcher Micael Ramirez and center fielder Petey Halpin were ejected. Hinds chose not to comment on the play or the ejection.

Still, it was the Dragons’ night again. They are 18-5, have won five straight, 15 of 17 and hold a seven-game lead over Fort Wayne (11-12) in the Midwest League East Division.

Even when it looked like the percentages would catch up with the Dragons in the first game, they rallied from a 6-1 deficit. Hinds’ second homer in the sixth inning cut Lake County’s lead to 6-3. In the seventh, Jose Torres doubled in a run and De La Cruz doubled in two to tie the score and force extra innings.

Starting the eighth with a runner on second, the Captains scored a run on a ground out. The Dragons immediately tied the score when Hinds led off with a single to score Alex McGarry. With the bases loaded, Hinds slid head first across home plate on a wild pitch to win the game.

The Dragons have won four games in their final at-bat. In the previous homestand against West Michigan, they scored three runs in the ninth inning to win 10-9. LaHair says often that his team is full of players who always get the most out of each at-bat.

“It’s who these guys are,” LaHair said. “We preach it, we talk about it, and that’s just who they are.”

Alex McGarry hit a two-run homer, his team-leading seventh, in the second game and added an RBI double. Garrett Wolforth capped the scoring with a two-run double.

The Dragons got good starting pitching again. Joe Boyle pitched four scoreless innings in the opener to extend his season-long streak to 17 scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and has now allowed three hits on the season. The Captains scored six unearned runs in the fifth inning off Evan Kravetz.

Bryce Bonnin allowed one run on one hit and two walks in 3 2/3 innings in the second game. Myles Gayman (2-0) pitched 2 1/3 innings and Donovan Benoit pitched the seventh for his fourth save.

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