DAYTON, Ohio – Dayton’s Sal Stewart launched a game-winning home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Dragons came from behind to defeat the Fort Wayne TinCaps 4-3 on Thursday night. 

The win, featuring the first Dayton walk-off home run of the season, kept the Dragons playoff hopes alive.

The Dragons are now two games behind first place Fort Wayne in the Midwest League East Division standings with three games to play.  They trail second place West Michigan by one and one-half games.  To reach the playoffs, Dayton will need to win their final three games.  They will also need West Michigan to lose at least two of their final three against Great Lakes, and will need at least one loss by Lake County, who is playing Lansing. 

Stewart came to the plate with the score tied 3-3, the bases empty, and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.  He blasted a 3-2 pitch over the left field fence to give the Dragons their first walk-off home run since Justice Thompson hit a game-ending homer on May 20, 2022.

View the Stewart home run here:

“Before the at-bat, I sat down and was envisioning doing that pays off,” said Stewart.  “I work really hard.  We’re trying to win.  We’re trying to make the playoffs.  So whatever it takes.”

“We’re excited. We’re ready for another one. The job is not done.  We’ve got to make the playoffs. The fans need the playoffs. We need the playoffs.  Cincinnati Reds, everyone. We’re trying to make the playoffs. Winning baseball here in September.” 

Fort Wayne jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, scoring all three runs in the top of the third inning, before the Dragons began a comeback effort.  Dayton’s Trey Faltine lined a solo home run to left field in the bottom of the third to get the Dragons started.  The homer was Faltine’s third of the season.

View the Faltine home run here:

Dayton took advantage of a Fort Wayne error in the fifth to pull to within a run.  Carlos Jorge doubled to start the inning and with one out, Edwin Arroyo grounded out to shortstop as Jorge raced to third.  After Arroyo was retired at first, Fort Wayne first baseman Griffin Doersching threw wildly toward third to try to get Jorge, and the ball rolled to the Dayton bullpen, allowing Jorge to score to make it 3-2.

The Dragons tied the game in the sixth.  They loaded the bases with one out, getting a pair of walks around a single by Justice Thompson, and Jorge’s sacrifice fly to center brought in Jack Rogers to make it 3-3, and the set the stage for the ninth inning heroics by Stewart.

Dayton starting pitcher Ryan Cardona worked the first five innings, allowing three runs on four hits with two walks and one strikeout.  Reliever Jacob Heatherly tossed two scoreless innings, striking out two while allowing a walk and an infield single.  Donovan Benoit (1-2) earned the win, tossing two scoreless innings.  The only batter to reach against Benoit came on catcher’s interference.

The Dragons finished with seven hits.  Stewart had a double along with his home run, his second homer with the Dragons and 12th in the Reds organization this season.

Up Next:  The Dragons (33-30, 66-63) host Fort Wayne (35-28, 67-62) in the fourth game of the six-game series on Friday at 7:10 p.m. at Day Air Ballpark in the heart of the Water Street District.  Hunter Parks (3-6, 3.93) is scheduled to start for Dayton.