Spillane’s home run lifts Dragons past Clinton, 5-4

Bren Spillane was just trying to put the ball in play.

With his team trailing the Clinton LumberKings 4-3 and the tying run at second base with one out in the eighth inning, the Dayton Dragons first baseman came to the plate simply looking to advance a runner to third base.

Instead, Spillane smashed a 388-foot, two-run shot to deep left field for his first professional game-winning home run, lifting the Dragons to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory in front 8,131 fans on Monday night at Fifth Third Field.

Entering the game, Spillane had gone nine games without a hit.

“When I hit it, I didn’t know if it was high enough, but I knew I hit it hard enough and I was kind of just hoping as I was running around the bases,” Spillane said. “When I saw it go over, it was a great feeling.”

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After the game, Spillane was given an ice bath from his teammates during the postgame celebration.

“He’s been having a tough time lately,” said Dragons manager Luis Bolivar. “I’m happy for him. To come through in this situation is for sure going to boost his confidence.”

Dayton (11-19) has won three of its last four games. The Dragons won their first road series of the season last weekend, taking two of three from Cedar Rapids.

The Dragons hit a season-high four home runs, including solo shots by Mariel Bautista, Morgan Lofstrom and Carlos Riviero.

Dayton starter Lyon Richardson tossed the best outing of his career, pitching six innings of two-hit baseball with three walks and three strikeouts.

“He did an incredible job,” Bolivar said. “He attacked and went deep into the game. It shows you that good things are coming up for him. I like the progress he’s been making. It’s too bad he didn’t get a win, but it’s a pretty quality outing.”

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Richardson was in line for his first career victory until the LumberKings mounted a comeback in the eighth inning. Trailing 3-1, the LumberKings loaded the bases with no outs after a double by Brayan Hernandez, a walk by Connor Scott and Demetrius Sims was hit by a pitch.

Dragons reliever Alexis Diaz struck out Jerar Encarnacion for the first out and Andy Cox struck out Sean Reynolds for the second out. The Dragons brought in Julio Pinto to face Will Banfield, who doubled to the right centerfield gap, scoring three runs and giving Clinton a 4-3 lead.

The Dragons fought back in the bottom of the eighth. Shard Munroe led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Miguel Fernandez, setting up Spillane’s home run.

“Credit to Shard for getting on and Miggy for bunting him over,” Spillane said. “They put me in a good situation and I just wanted to get a hit.”

Spillane was a third round draft pick last summer by the Reds out of the University of Illinois where he was named the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2018. Spillane had gone 0-34 with 20 strikeouts in his last nine appearances and broke his hitless streak with a double in the fourth inning.

“I obviously haven’t been hitting as well as I’d like to, so I’m happy that I’m finally able to help the team,” Spillane said.

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Pinto bounced back in the ninth inning, striking out two to pick up his first win.

In the first inning, Bautista rocked a 411-foot home run into the left field Dragon’s Lair to give Dayton an early 1-0 lead.

Clinton tied the game in the top of the second inning. After back-to-back walks, a throwing error by Lofstrom scored the LumberKings’ Banfield from second base.

In the third inning, the Dragons reclaimed the lead after Lofstrom smashed a 377-foot home run into the right-field lawn. Carlos Riviero followed with a 371-foot home run to give Dayton a 3-1 lead.

It was the first time the Dragons’ hit back-to-back home runs. It happened last season when Jose Garcia and Shard Munroe hit back-to-back homers in early August at West Michigan.

In the fourth inning, Dragons centerfielder Michael Siani made a diving catch and slammed into the centerfield wall, but was injured on the play. Siani is day-to-day with a right-shoulder contusion, Bolivar said.

“It’s nothing serious so that’s good news,” he said. “It was a helluva play. Hopefully, he’ll back out there in a couple days.”

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