Robert Stephenson doesn’t have real good memories of the end of his season in Dayton last year. The Reds’ former first- round draft pick lost his last four starts after dominating the first two games he pitched for the Dragons.
The hard-throwing right-hander seemed to rediscover a positive vibe Thursday against West Michigan in what became a 7-6, season-opening loss in 10-innings.
Stephenson heated up the radar gun right away, consistently reaching 97-99 miles per hour with his fastball. He struck out three of the first four hitters he faced. But the Whitecaps started zoning in the second time around the order and scored three runs on four hits in the third inning.
West Michigan starter Briceno Endrys helped the Dragons get back in it. He walked four in the fourth, two with the bases loaded. The Dragons drew even 3-3 in the sixth when Junior Arias led off with a solo homer to left field.
It didn’t take long for West Michigan to reclaim the lead, scoring three runs in the sixth. Cincinnati native Lance Durham, the son of former big leaguer Leon Durham, got it started with a drive that short-hopped the wall in right to knock in the go-ahead run. Relief pitcher Tony Amezcua faced four hitters in the inning and didn’t get anybody out.
But the Dragons battled back again, scoring three more runs to tie in the seventh. Robert Ramirez flared an RBI single into left field for one run, and a throwing error brought two more home for a 6-6 tie.
The Whitecaps had the last laugh in extra innings as Jake Stewart delivered the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 10th.
Stephenson worked five innings, allowing six hits and three earned runs with one walk and six strikeouts.
It’s a quick turnaround for the Dragons, who get right back at it this morning here. The second game of the season has an 11 a.m. first pitch with Ismael Guillon starting for Dayton. The left-hander was 2-0 in a late-season call-up with the Dragons last August.