DAYTON, Ohio – Jose Ortiz lined a single to left field to drive in Gavin LaValley from third base with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift the Dayton Dragons to a 5-4 victory over the Lake County Captains in the final game of the first half on Sunday afternoon.
The game featured one of the most unusual finishes in franchise history as the Dragons were not awarded the win until 33 minutes after LaValley touched home plate. The Captains filed an official protest of the outcome of the game that will be ruled upon by Midwest League officials.
With the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 11th, LaValley lined a double to right-center field, collecting his fourth hit of the game. After Brian O’Grady was intentionally walked, Paul Kronenfeld grounded back to the pitcher, who threw to second base to get the force on O’Grady, leaving the Dragons with two outs, LaValley at third, and Kronenfeld at first. Ortiz then lined a solid hit to left field, allowing LaValley to score easily and setting off a celebration by the Dragons of an apparent walk-off win. Both umpires left the field as the Dragons celebrated.
Meanwhile, Lake County returned the ball to second base and argued that Kronenfeld had never reached the bag. If they were correct, the throw to second would have resulted in a force out and the inning would have ended, the run would not have counted, and the game would have continued on to the 12th inning. But by this time, the umpires had made their way off the field and through the third base dugout.
Umpires eventually returned to the playing field and could be seen talking via cell phone, apparently with a league official or umpire supervisor. After 33 minutes, umpires signaled that the game was final and ruled the Dragons the winner. Umpires declined to talk with media after the game, but did confirm through team officials that Lake County had filed a protest.
The Dragons finished the first half with a 39-31 record. They finished in a virtual tie with Great Lakes for the first half East Division wildcard spot, but lost the spot to the Loons based on winning percentage. Great Lakes played two fewer games, finishing at 38-30, a winning percentage of .559 compared to the Dragons mark of .557.
On Sunday, the Dragons took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning on LaValley’s two-run home run to center field, his second homer of the year. Lake County came back with two in the sixth and one in the seventh to take a 4-2 lead. The Dragons tied the game in the eighth on a two-out, two-run single by Shed Long to make it 4-4.
Dragons reliever Jake Ehret (3-1) was credited with the win. He tossed three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and one walk with two strikeouts.
The Dragons finished with 14 hits. LaValley went 4 for 6 with two doubles, a home run, and a single. Ortiz was 3 for 5 with the game-winning RBI. Long was 2 for 5. O’Grady had one hit to extend his hitting streak to 12 straight games. The Captains intentionally walked O’Grady in his final two plate appearances after he had belted a pair of home runs in Saturday’s game.
The Dragons will be off the next three days before opening the 70-game second half of the Midwest League’s split-season format on Thursday at Bowling Green at 8:05 p.m. (EDT). Seth Varner (6-4, 2.92) will be activated prior to Thursday game and start for the Dragons.
Notes: The Dragons finished the first half by winning eight of their final nine games. If not for their 4-3 loss on Friday night to Lake County, they would have overtaken Great Lakes for the wildcard…Dragons pitchers Tyler Mahle, Tejay Antone, and Brian Hunter will play in the Midwest League All-Star Game on Tuesday night in Peoria.