In addition to securing the Wild Card lead, the win on Friday means the Silver Hawks hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Dayton, winning the season series eight games to seven. Thus, the magic number is two for South Bend, so any combination of a South Bend win or a Dayton loss totaling up to two will clinch the final playoff spot for the Hawks.
It is an unusual playoff race, since whether South Bend or Dayton appears in the playoffs, that team will have a sub-.500 record in both the first and second halves of the season. The Silver Hawks had positioned themselves strongly for a postseason berth before getting swept by the Great Lakes Loons in a four-game series to conclude the month of August. After defeating the Lansing Lugnuts in an unusual one-game series to begin September, South Bend then proceeded to lose two straight two-run games to Dayton. A sweep would have made the playoffs an extreme improbability.
Wheeler gave South Bend the early lead in Friday's paramount game, blasting his first home run for the Hawks to lead off the second inning against Dayton starter Chase Ware (ND). Wheeler, a fifth round pick from Loyola Marymount University this June, has now homered six times in his career - including five with Yakima before being promoted to South Bend.
Dayton came back with two runs against South Bend starter Eric Smith (ND) in the bottom of the third to take the lead. Smith hit Josh Fellhauer to start the inning, and a ground out moved Fellhauer to second. Byron Wiley brought home Fellhauer with a single to right, tying the game at one. A wild pitch moved Wiley to second and an error got him to third. Carlos Mendez had a sacrifice fly, putting the Dragons in front 2-1.
Jake Elmore led off the sixth inning with a single, but was erased at second on a fielder's choice from A.J. Pollock. Reynaldo Navarro singled to left, extending his hitting streak to a career high 11 games and putting runners at the corners. Alfredo Marte followed with a two-strike single to center, scoring Pollock to tie the game at 2-2. With first and third and one out, Wheeler bounced into a double play ending the inning, but the Silver Hawks had evened up the score.
Smith finished the game having allowed five hits and two earned runs through
six innings. It was his second quality start with South Bend, and in all
three of his starts, he has allowed two or fewer earned runs. Bryan Woodall (WP,
2-2) tossed 3.0 perfect innings for the Silver Hawks from the 7th through the
9th, striking out four of the nine batters he faced. It was a nice
bounce-back outing for Woodall, who went 1-2 with a 4.73 ERA in the month of
August after a dominant June and July.
Tied at two entering the top of the tenth, the Dayton Dragons tried to get another inning out of reliever Donnie Joseph (LP, 2-2). Joseph had thrown 2.2 scoreless innings, but showed signs of tiring by walking two in the ninth. Alberto Diaz led off with a single, Elmore walked, and Pollock singled to load the bases with nobody out. Navarro walked to force in a run, giving the Silver Hawks a 3-2 lead and ending the night of Joseph.
Mark James (ND) came in, but allowed a RBI single to Ryan Wheeler to make it 4-2, and a two run single by Justin Parker made it 6-2. Justin Mace (ND) set down the Dragons in order in the bottom of the 10th to wrap up the win
for Woodall. It was his seventh straight outing in which he did not allow
an earned run.
After an off day Saturday, the Silver Hawks return home to Coveleski Stadium on Sunday afternoon against the Lansing Lugnuts with the first pitch scheduled for 2:00 PM Eastern Time. RHP Ryan Cook (11-10, 3.33 ERA) will start for South Bend against Lansing's LHP John Anderson (3-6, 4.19 ERA). It is possible for them to clinch a postseason berth with a win and a Dayton loss. Pregame coverage begins at 1:40 PM Eastern Time on 1620 ESPN Radio and online at www.silverhawks.com.
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