Right fielder Bren Spillane connects for one of his three hits Monday night that helped the Dragons to a 9-1 victory over Beloit. Jeff Gilbert/STAFF

Spillane stays hot, powers Dragons to 9-1 win over Beloit

Bren Spillane’s hitting has been on the upswing in the second half of the Midwest League season. But his season batting average was below a line baseball players don’t like to talk about — .200.

That all changed for Spillane on Monday night. He went 3-for-5 and raised his batting average from .199 to .209 to help the Dragons to a 9-1 victory over Beloit.

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“I think it was at one point around .140 or .150,” Spillane said. “It feels really good and it’s just building on that day by day.”

That said, Spillane said he doesn’t keep a close eye on his average.

“If you think about your average every day it weighs on you,” he said. “Your average can fluctuate so much there’s really no point in looking at it hard.”

Spillane was in the middle of most of the offense the Dragons generated by scoring in each of the first five innings to build an 8-0 lead. He singled home runs in the first and fourth innings and singled and scored in the third. The other hot bat in the middle of the order belongs to catcher Pabel Manzanero. His two-run homer in the fourth with Spillane aboard blew the game open at 7-0.When Spillane’s batting average was around .150 he went to the Reds’ training facility for the second half of May and worked on his swing. But it didn’t yield immediate results when he returned.

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“When I got back I was thinking about the swing a lot because it was something new,” Spillane said. “Since the second half has started it’s been going out there competing against the pitcher rather than competing against myself.”

Spillane is batting .355 through the first 24 games of the second half, .400 over the past 14 games and has 10 RBIs. And Manzanero is batting .408 in his past 12 games to raise his season average to .286.

“Hitting is very contagious so those guys are seeing better at-bats and better results,” Dragons manager Luis Bolivar said. “Bren has made good adjustments and swinging at good pitches and same thing for Manzy. Hopefully they’ll keep being consistent.”

The 3-0 series win over Beloit (7-16, 34-57) was the first for the Dragons (11-13, 39-55) in the second half and concluded a 5-4 homestand. The 20 runs marked their highest scoring three-game series of the season. It comes at a good time ahead of a six-game road trip on which the Dragons hope to remain in the thick of the second-half playoff chase.

“The clubhouse is up, and we’re really excited about the second half,” Spillane said. “It’s about building on games like this.”

The Dragons are in sixth place and six games out of first place in the Eastern Division with 46 games to play. But the Dragons are far from out of the race for the two available second-half playoff berths. Second-place Lake County and third-place Great Lakes secured the first-half playoff berths, so those teams won’t figure into the second-half race. That means the Dragons are only two games out of the wildcard playoff spot behind Lansing (13-11). The Dragons last reached the playoffs in 2017.

The pitching staff allowed only seven runs in the series. Eduardo Salazar pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings Monday. Adrian Rodriguez (4-2) pitched the next 2 1/3 innings and allowed a solo homer.

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