Flyers baseball fall shy of comeback bid in 7-6 loss at Day Air Ballpark

The Dayton Flyers baseball team hosted a game at Day Air Ballpark Friday night, but fell just short in a comeback bid. Photo courtesy of Peter Burtnett, Flyer News.

Peter Burtnett
Sports Editor

The Dayton Flyers baseball team hosted George Mason at Day Air Ballpark Friday night, but fell just short of a big comeback win, losing 7-6.

Home of the Cincinnati Reds’ High-A affiliate Dayton Dragons, Day Air Ballpark was an exciting place to play, according to Flyers head coach Jayson King. 

“What an incredible atmosphere to play in,” King said. “A lot of fans, really into the game, you could feel them on the field. So even though the result wasn’t what we wanted, it was a really good night in a lot of other areas besides that.”

To get the game scheduled at a ballpark with a capacity of 7,230 seats (6,730 more than Woerner Field, the Flyers’ regular home), King said he had to do a lot of leg work, but that the leg work was made easier by the administration for making it “special for student athletes.”

“I’ve been hopeful of getting over here for years,” said King, who is in his third season at UD. “My first year, I initiated some conversation through administration and the Dragons, and at the time they were fully functional, I think they didn’t really need to have us over here. With them not having the season last year, I think they were looking to do other stuff. Their general manager reached out to me, and when I saw that I was like, ‘We’re definitely going to want to make this happen.’”

In Friday’s game, the scoring started for the Flyers in the bottom of the first inning. Senior third baseman Riley Tirotta struck a line drive to center field for a single, scoring senior second baseman Mariano Ricciardi from second base.

Flyers senior ace starting pitcher Hunter Wolfe got through the first two innings untouched, but in the top of the third gave up a walk, double, and then two singles as the Patriots took a 3-1 lead.

In the bottom of the sixth, Tirotta doubled to put runners on second and third with 1 out. Junior first baseman Marcos Pujols was up to bat, and a wild pitch allowed a run to score from third, making it 3-2. Pujols couldn’t add another in this at-bat, and through six innings the Patriots led by one.

In the top of the next inning, Wolfe allowed runners on to second and third with 1 out. On a hard ground ball between first and second base, Ricciardi made an excellent diving stop and fired a throw to home. Much to the dismay of the lively Dayton crowd, the runner avoided the tag to increase the Patriots’ lead to two. Everyone was safe to put runners on the corners.

King pulled Wolfe for junior right-handed reliever Bryce Hellgeth, who gave up a triple to deep center field, scoring both runs to increase the lead to 6-2. A squeeze bunt scored another, giving the Patriots the lead they needed at 7-2.

With two outs, the Flyers got runners to first and second in the bottom half of the seventh. A routine grounder to the shortstop was bobbled and then thrown away from the second baseman, allowing graduate first baseman Alex Brickman to come around and score from second base. 

Runners on the corners, Pujols stepped up for another big chance. This time, on a center-cut pitch, Pujols took a swing and launched a 3-run home run into right field to cut the deficit to 7-6. 

After that, the Flyers went down in order and lost by one run to fall to 11-23 on the season.

“We did (show a lot of fight),” King said. “But we just needed to execute a little more, minimize when we get these big innings, we need to make the damage a little bit less, and we didn’t do a good job of that today. I thought one of the biggest differences was the 2-strike hitting today, it was uncharacteristic today with some of the two strike swings we took.”

Next up, the Flyers (11-23, 1-4 A-10) finish the 4-game home series against the Patriots with a doubleheader Saturday starting at noon and the series finale Sunday at noon.

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