Dayton, Ohio — Mat Nelson’s two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning broke a 3-3 tie and the Dayton Dragons held on for a 6-4 victory over the Great Lakes Loons on Saturday afternoon.
The win was a great bounce-back effort for the Dragons after a pair of painful losses. They fell to Great Lakes 15-3 on Thursday and then lost 1-0 on Friday.
The Dragons can earn a split of the six-game series with a win on Sunday in the finale.
After Great Lakes scored a single run in the top of the first inning on a home run by Alex Freeland, the Dragons responded in the second.
After a walk to Austin Hendrick and a single by Justice Thompson, Jack Rogers blasted a three-run home run to right field to give the Dragons a 3-1 lead. The homer was Rogers’ first of the season.
Great Lakes battled back with two runs in the fifth to tie the game at 3-3. But the Dragons regained the lead in the seventh. Luis Chevalier walked to start the inning and with two outs, Nelson lined a home run to left field to give the Dragons a 5-3 lead. It was Nelson’s second home run of the season.
Great Lakes scored a single run in the top of the eighth before Dragons reliever Owen Holt struck out Austin Gauthier with two men on base to prevent further damage.
The Dragons scored an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when Chevalier singled with two outs to bring in Thompson, who had doubled and advanced to third on an error.
In the ninth, with Jake Gozzo on the mound, Dayton right fielder Blake Dunn made a tremendous leaping catch against the fence to prevent an extra base hit.
The catch by Dunn is destined to go down as one of the top defensive plays of the season by the Dragons. Gozzo pitched a scoreless inning for his first save of the season.
The Dragons finished the day with a season-high 10 hits. Thompson led the way, going 3 for 3 plus a walk, while Nelson and Chevalier each had two hits.
Reliever Manuel Cachutt was credited with the win after pitching a scoreless seventh inning. He walked three hitters in the inning but stranded all three. Starter Julian Aguiar pitched better than his final numbers would indicate.
Aguiar gave up one run in the first inning before starting a roll where he retired nine straight batters.
He allowed a pair of hits in the fifth, his final inning, and both eventually scored. Aguiar worked four and one-third innings, allowing five hits and three runs with no walks and four strikeouts. The Dragons bullpen combined for four and two-thirds innings, allowing just one unearned run.
Up Next: The Dragons (3-5) host the Loons (3-5) at Day Air Ballpark on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. Jose Acuna (1-0, 0.00) will make his second appearance and first start of the year for Dayton.
Acuna tossed four shutout innings last Saturday at Lake County and earned the win.