Stewart’s walk-off home run keeps Dragons playoff hopes alive

Dayton’s Sal Stewart launched a game-winning home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Dragons came from behind to defeat the Fort Wayne TinCaps 4-3 on Thursday night. The win, featuring the first Dayton walk-off home run of the season, kept the Dragons playoff hopes alive.

The Dragons are now two games behind first place Fort Wayne in the Midwest League East Division standings with three games to play. They trail second place West Michigan by 1 1/2 games. To reach the playoffs, Dayton will need to win their final three games. They will also need West Michigan to lose at least two of their final three against Great Lakes, and will need at least one loss by Lake County, which is playing Lansing.

Stewart came to the plate with the score tied 3-3, the bases empty, and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. He blasted a 3-2 pitch over the left field fence to give the Dragons their first walk-off home run since Justice Thompson hit a game-ending homer on May 20, 2022.

Fort Wayne jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, scoring all three runs in the top of the third inning, before the Dragons began a comeback effort.  Dayton’s Trey Faltine lined a solo home run to left field in the bottom of the third to get the Dragons started.  The homer was Faltine’s third of the season.

Dayton took advantage of a Fort Wayne error in the fifth to pull to within a run.  Carlos Jorge doubled to start the inning and with one out, Edwin Arroyo grounded out to shortstop as Jorge raced to third.  After Arroyo was retired at first, Fort Wayne first baseman Griffin Doersching threw wildly toward third to try to get Jorge, and the ball rolled to the Dayton bullpen, allowing Jorge to score to make it 3-2.

The Dragons tied the game in the sixth.  They loaded the bases with one out, getting a pair of walks around a single by Justice Thompson, and Jorge’s sacrifice fly to center brought in Jack Rogers to make it 3-3, and the set the stage for the ninth inning heroics by Stewart.

Dayton starting pitcher Ryan Cardona worked the first five innings, allowing three runs on four hits with two walks and one strikeout.  Reliever Jacob Heatherly tossed two scoreless innings, striking out two while allowing a walk and an infield single.  Donovan Benoit (1-2) earned the win, tossing two scoreless innings.  The only batter to reach against Benoit came on catcher’s interference.

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