Despite coming up with seven extra base hits and a strong return from catcher Ronnie Freeman, the South Bend Silver Hawks fell to the Dayton Dragons 7-4 on Friday night. The Hawks collected six doubles and a homerun, but were unable to overcome a rough five run sixth inning by Dayton that included two homeruns. Even with the loss, South Bend managed to lower their magic number to 1 in the battle for clinching first place as the Fort Wayne TinCaps fell to the West Michigan Whitecaps, 2-1.
South Bend, the Class-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, took an early lead in the third inning. Freeman led off with a double off the wall in deep center. Shortstop Pedro Ruiz followed with a double of his own, down the right field line to score Freeman and put the Hawks in front 1-0. That was all the Hawks could muster off Dragon’s starter Nick Travieso (1-1) as he hurled five innings, allowing only four hits while striking out two.
Hawks starter Brad Allen (2-3) pitched masterfully through 5 2/3, limiting the Dragons to two hits. After two great defensive grabs by the Hawks outfield, the wheels fell off the Hawks Express. Second baseman Sammy Diaz started the rally with a single to shallow center. Diaz quickly rounded the bases as the next batter, leftfielder Jesse Winker took a 1-0 Allen offering over the right field wall to put the Dragons ahead 2-1. Designated hitter Joe Terry was hit by a pitch and took first before advancing to second on a single to center by third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean. Center fielder Junior Arias brought home Terry and Mejias-Brean with the Dragons second homer of the inning, this one tattooed to left for a 5-1 Dayton lead.
The Hawks got one back in the bottom of the sixth. Right fielder Socrates Brito led off with his second double of the evening, this one a ground rule double down the left field line. Third baseman Brandon Drury then stepped into the box and plated Brito as he hit his first of two doubles on the night to close the gap to 5-2.
The Dayton Dragons, Class-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, added to their lead in both the seventh and eighth innings. In the seventh, shortstop Zach Vincej doubled to the right field corner. Vincej later came around to score on Diaz’s double to right that bounced over the head of Carter Bell at first. Then in the eighth, Mejias-Brean crushed the first pitch from South Bend reliever Enrique Burgos into the Fun Zone to pad Dayton’s lead to 7-2.
The Silver Hawks hinted at a comeback in the bottom of the ninth. Leftfielder Alex Glen led off the South Bend effort with a line drive single to rightfield. Recently off nearly six weeks on the disabled list, Freeman sent a two-run homerun into the leftfield seats. The roundtripper was Freeman’s first of the season. After recording two outs and hitting centerfielder Breland Almadova with a pitch, Dayton reliever Alejandro Chacin was lifted for Sean Lucas who struck out Socrates Brito to end the game, earning a one-out save.
The teams return to action Saturday night at the Cove. It’s a Flat Screen Saturday: every inning the Silver Hawks will give away a 39” flat screen television, courtesy of HH Gregg. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to take home a tv, every fan in attendance will be a winner, with entertainment provided by Quick Change!, a dancing duo that mixes classic ballroom moves with magic tricks and quick costume changes. On the field, Drew Cisco (2-4, 4.12) gets the start for Dayton. Midwest League All-Star Jesse Darrah (6-4, 3.78) will take the mound for the Silver Hawks. Gates open at 6:00, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:00pm.