Lansing spoils Dragons home opener

Dayton starter Eduardo Salazar made his second start for the Dragons in their home opener Tuesday night at Day Air Ballpark. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
Dayton starter Eduardo Salazar made his second start for the Dragons in their home opener Tuesday night at Day Air Ballpark. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Opening night at Day Air Ballpark didn’t end well for the Dayton Dragons, but that didn’t deter four guys in the sparse crowd from enjoying themselves Tuesday.

Even as the Dragons fell behind by five runs in the 10th inning, they stood together in the upper level behind home plate shouting encouragement. With only 30 percent capacity permitted because of COVID-19, they were easy to hear. When you haven’t had baseball in town since September of 2019, why leave early and why not have fun?

ExplorePHOTOS: Dayton Dragons home opener

When Mariel Bautista was hit by a pitch to begin the bottom of the 10th to put runners at first and second, they expected a rally. But Miguel Hernandez hit into a double play and Jacob Hurtubise flew out to center field and Lansing won 9-4.

“The atmosphere, the fans, the stadium is just a great place to play baseball and see those kids try to get better,” said first-year Dragons manager Jose Moreno.

The Dragons (5-2) outhit the Lugnuts (4-3) 12 to 11. However, the Dragons left 12 runners on base, including the bases loaded in the ninth, and the Lugnuts left only two.

“We had a really good week in Michigan, but today they were trying to do too much,” Moreno said. “They were chasing a little bit, especially the high fastball. Of course, every game is different, but we have to try to be consistent of what we try to do at the plate no matter what.”

In the top of the 10th, the Lugnuts took quick advantage of the rule that puts a runner on second to start the inning. They grouped four hits, including a two-run homer by Max Schuemann, to score five runs against Tyler Garbee.

“They had real good discipline,” Moreno said of the Lansing hitters. “They didn’t chase any breaking balls out of the strike zone, and they were ready for fastballs. They put together really good at-bats and tried to get deep in the count.”

Eduardo Salazar, who pitched five scoreless innings last week to win his first start for the Dragons, allowed three earned runs and left after five innings trailing 4-2. Eddy Demurias and Braxton Roxby each pitched two scoreless innings and allowed one hit.

Dayton fell behind 4-2 in the fifth inning when the Lugnuts scored three runs with the help of two errors on the same play. But Miguel Hernandez hit his first homer and hot-hitting Brian Rey hit his league-leading fifth homer to tie the score. But there were no more key hits for the Dragons.

Despite the loss, the Dragons are off to one of their best starts team history. Their 5-1 road trip last week at Great Lakes was their best start since 2010.

Moreno said a big factor in the early success is because of the way spring training was structured. Typically, players are bouncing around the complex in Arizona. But this year the core of the team stayed together for most of the month.

“The chemistry was building in Arizona, and then coming here the energy and the effort is something that was in our hands,” Moreno said. “We want to control the energy and the effort. Talent is going to take over, but energy and effort is going to be the key for us. And I’m very happy how they come to the ballpark every day and try to apply.”

Notes

Miami connection: Lansing is managed by 1995 Miami University graduate Scott Steinmann, who is in his first year with the Lugnuts and his fifth year in the Oakland Athletics organization. Steinmann was ejected in the fourth inning for arguing that Cobie Vance was hit by a pitch. After heading to first base, Vance was called back because the umpire ruled it a foul ball.

Next game: The Dragons send right-hander Noah Davis to the mound Wednesday. Davis suffered the only loss in Dayton’s season-opening series at Great Lakes, a 1-0 decision in six innings.

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