In a season of firsts, it figures the Dragons would find another way to punctuate yet another sudden-death victory Wednesday night.
This time the starring role went to shortstop Hector Vargas, whose blooper nestled between the Lansing Lugnuts’ outfield and infield and enabled the Dragons to post a 4-3 win in 11 innings at Fifth Third Field.
Vargas twice missed badly before lunging at another offering. This time he was money.
“After a couple of swings I tried to just put the ball in play,” said the Dominican Republic native through manager and translator Luis Bolivar. “No matter how the pitch was, I just wanted to put the ball in play.”
Dayton (9-4) maintained its Midwest League Eastern Division lead by taking its fourth straight series. The Dragons have shared or held the outright ML lead for a week.
Game changer: Vargas set off what’s becoming a regular clubhouse impromptu dance routine by the players. Even Bolivar was tempted to join in until persuaded to translate for Vargas.
Light-hitting backup catcher Cassidy Brown (.100) started the 11th inning with a single and Jose Siri’s sacrifice bunt was rifled into the netting by losing pitcher Jackson McClelland (0-1). Brantley Bell was then walked to load the bases, setting the stage for Vargas.
MEET THE DRAGONS: Shortstop Hector Vargas
It was the first time the Dragons earned a walk-off win and the first time they had played extra innings.
“The chemistry is really important,” Vargas said. “We always battle every game. When you go out there and you’ve got good chemistry on the team, good things are going to happen.”
John Sansone (.222) and James Vasquez (.188) had two hits for the Dragons. Starting pitcher Wennington Romero lasted six impressive innings, striking out six, allowing five hits and no earned runs. Reliever Jesse Adams (2-0) went the final two scoreless innings and struck out three to earn the win.
Dragons tales: Brantley Bell was credited with a unique single in the second inning. The Dragons second baseman scorched a shot to Lugnuts third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who fielded the heater cleanly but couldn’t make a throw. That’s because the ball was wedged into his glove’s webbing.
Guerrero, whose father was the 2004 American League MVP for the Angels, waved his mitt around in disbelief. Bell was stranded at third.
MEET THE DRAGONS: Shortstop Luis Gonzalez
Guerrero has reached base in all 13 of the Lugnuts’ games, collecting 13 hits and nine walks. From Montreal, Canada, he signed with the Jays when he was 16. Baseball America ranks him as the Jays’ No. 1 prospect.
• Left fielder Taylor Trammell (Power Springs, Ga.) extended his hitting streak to nine games. That’s the longest current active streak in the Midwest League.An outstanding high school football quarterback, he was rated the fastest baserunner and best athlete in the Reds organization by Baseball America.
• Second baseman Brantley Bell was hitting .115 at the start of the series on Monday. After three games he hiked his average to .243 with two more hits on Wednesday.
• So, who’s the best Dragons clubhouse dancer? “Avain Rachal,” said Vargas, laughing.
On deck: The Dragons begin a four-game series at the South Bend Cubs on Thursday. Ryan Olson (2.0, 0.00 ERA) is threatening to become the Dragons’ ace pitcher. The right-hander from Cal Poly Pomona has allowed six hits in 16 innings, no runs and struck out 12.
Probable South Bend starter is lefty Manuel Rondon (1.0, 3.72 ERA). Rondon was part of a Eugene Emeralds staff last season that was key in winning a Northwest League rookie-ball championship.
The other projected Dragons starting pitchers are Andrew Jordan (Friday), Tony Santillan (Saturday) and Scott Moss (Sunday). After that series Dayton has three games at Bowling Green. The Dragons return to Dayton to begin a four-game series with Great Lakes on April 27.
FACEBOOK: For more sports you should like Marc Pendleton