Dayton, Ohio—The South Bend Cubs rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth inning and held off a Dayton comeback effort in the bottom of the inning as they defeated the Dragons 5-4 on Thursday night. The Cubs won two-out-of-three in the series and pulled to within one game of the Dragons with the win. The Dragons finished the night in second place, two games behind first place West Michigan. The top two finishers in the division will qualify for post-season play.
The Dragons took a 4-2 lead to the ninth inning but saw South Bend rally for the second time in the series as they scored three runs after two outs were recorded. Luis Ayala lined an 0-2 pitch for a base hit to left field with the bases loaded to drive in two runs and give the Cubs the lead.
The Dragons had a great chance to tie or win in the bottom of the ninth. They loaded the bases with one out on a pair of walks and a single by Taylor Trammell. But Tyler Stephenson grounded to second base into a game-ending double play.
After winning nearly every close game over the first six weeks of the season, the Dragons continued a two-week slump in which they have struggled in late-game situations. They have held the lead or been tied in the ninth inning in 14 consecutive games, but have lost six of them. Still, with a 34-19 record, they can earn a playoff spot with strong play over the final 17 games of the first half in the Midwest League’s split-season format.
South Bend scored one run in the third inning before the Dragons tied it in the fourth. John Sansone walked to start the inning and Taylor Trammell reached on a bunt single. The runners advanced one base on Tyler Stephenson’s ground out and Sansone scored on Bruce Yari’s sacrifice fly.
South Bend jumped back in front with a run in the top of the fifth before the Dragons re-tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Michael Beltre singled to left field with two outs and scored from first on T.J. Friedl’s double to deep center.
Dayton’s Cassidy Brown opened the bottom of the seventh inning with a long home run to left field, his first of the year, to give the Dragons their first lead of the night at 3-2. They added another run in the inning when Luis Gonzalez scored from second base on an error to make it 4-2, a score that held until there were two outs in the ninth inning.
The Dragons collected nine hits. Trammell was 3 for 4 with three infield singles.
Dragons starting pitcher Ty Boyles worked seven strong innings, allowing two runs on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Carlos Machorro pitched a scoreless eighth inning and started the ninth, retiring the first batter before allowing back-to-back singles. Joel Kuhnel (0-3) surrendered two hits and a walk and was charged with one run as he suffered the loss.