Stuart Fairchild didn’t go full-blown Babe Ruth and call his shot in the bottom of the ninth at Fifth Third Field on Saturday, but he might as well have.
With the Dragons’ trailing by one, Fairchild walked to plate filled with confidence.
“I had a feeling that I was going to hit a home run. Not gonna lie,” Fairchild said.
His moonshot over the left-field wall traveled about 350 feet and tied the game 2-2, just minutes after the Lugnuts took a one-run lead in the top of the frame. The Dragons went on to win the game 5-4 in 10 innings.
“I got a good pitch to hit and didn’t try to do too much and I just told myself I was going to put a good short swing on it and he supplied the power with a fastball up in the zone, so i’ll take that,” he said.
That wasn’t Dayton’s only comeback of the night.
In the 10th inning, the Dragons found themselves trailing again following a two-out, two-run single from Kevin Vicuna.
When they came to the plate in the bottom of the frame, the Dragons took advantage of a new rule in Minor League Baseball that lets a runner begin the inning on the second base in extra innings.
With Leandro Santana on second, Jose Garcia hit a pop fly to right field that somehow found grass to land on near the foul line. Garcia sped out of the box for a double.
Andy Sugilio then singled up the middle to tie the game 4-4. He advanced to second following a poor throw home.
Then, the Lugnuts unraveled. Catcher Matt Moore allowed a passed ball. Moments later, reliever Matt Shannon skidded a ball in front of home plate that Moore couldn’t catch. Sugulio dashed for home, giving the Dragons a 5-4 win.
The victory marked Dayton’s first win over the first-place Lugnuts in 2018. Dayton had lost nine straight to Lansing entering June 2.
“They are the only team we haven’t beaten so far, we know we needed one at least and that was a good night to start that and it was especially nice because we were down for most of the game and came back twice and it was more sweet,” Fairchild said.
Tyler Mondile started the game for Dayton and turned in a quality start, throwing six innings, allowing seven hits and one run. He walked none and struck out three.
His outing was much better than his last, when he gave up five runs on 10 hits on the road in Bowling Green on May 28.
“He’s starting to have a better idea about himself,” Dragons’ pitching coach Seth Etherton said. “For Tyler, it’s getting ahead. If he’s able to get ahead of pitchers. He’s starting to understand how to get hitters out efficiently.”
Dragons tales: One day after the Lugnuts smacked around the Dragons’ relievers for 12 hits in the final three innings of Dayton’s 12-1 blowout loss on Friday, there’s some good news coming out the bullpen.
Wendolyn Bautista pitched three innings of relief against the Lugnuts before giving way to Cory Thompson in the 10th, who credited with the win.
Although Bautista let in the go ahead run in the ninth, he kept the game close, striking out five in three innings while allowing only two hits and a walk.
Bautista, 25, had been starting earlier in the year, but his last three appearances have come in relief. In his last three outings, he’s pitched eight innings, struck out 10 and walked one.
“He’s primarily a two-pitch guy, and to be able to come in and throw as many strikes with those two pitches, that’s important, especially as an older guy who’s been in this league before,” Etherton said. “He comes in aggressively and trusts his stuff and he sets the tone by attacking really well.”
Next game: Hunter Greene (0-3, 7.18 ERA) returns to the mound for the Dragons today, as Dayton tries to take two of three from the Lugnuts, who will start Maverik Buffo (7-1, 3.99 ERA). First pitch is 2:07 p.m.