Like “deja vu all over again”, Dayton and Wright State hooked up Tuesday with the exact same results of their game earlier this season. Funny, unless you’re a Flyer fan…or Tony Vittorio.
By Stan Wilker, for Press Pros
Fairborn – It was Yogi Berra who once famously said, “It’s like deja vu all over again out there.”
But for Dayton and Wright State fans attending Tuesday’s game at Nischwitz Stadium on the campus of Wright State there had to be a flashback to March 9th as the crosstown rivals duplicated the same score, same result, with the nine inning affair being played out in a most similar fashion in both contests.
The Raiders prevailed, as they did in March, by a final of 5 to 4, though this ended in the normal nine innings. It took twelve to decide the March affair. There were brilliant defensive plays, clutch hitting , and aggressive base running in both contests, coupled with pitching that was at times outstanding, and at other times, less than average.
A large crowd gathered at the Fairborn campus to see the two neighboring schools renew the long standing rivalry on Military Night. Though the Raiders hold a commanding 83-44-1 series advantage, the Flyers played the Raiders tough in game one, and were prepared to do the same tonight. Wright State entered the contest holding down first place in the Horizon League with a conference record of 18–5, and an overall record of 32-15.
Meanwhile, Dayton entered with a 6–12 A-10 ledger, and 16–30 overall. The Flyers and Raiders both entered the non-league affair with some momentum from last week-end’s action as the Raiders won three of four, while the Flyers took two of three from A-10 leader VCU.
During the course of a game played in brisk, cold conditions, the Flyers employed 4 pitchers, with the Raiders countering with three. Tyler Jones got the nod for the Flyers and pitched a respectable 3 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 earned runs, with a pair of walks and 1 strikeout. Jones received a huge boost from the Dayton defense. With one out and Raider runners on first and third, Wright State first sacker Gabe Snyder lofted a fly ball to medium left where Mitch Coughlin made the catch and followed with an absolute bullet to nail Matt Morrow at the plate in a close play that had the Raider Rowdies howling in protest. A second close play ensued in the second inning for Wright State as Matt Morrow hit a ground ball up the middle that barely eluded the glove of Flyer hurler Tyler Jones, grazed his foot, allowing Adrian Marquez to score.
The Raiders then scored a second run as Zach Weatherford was hit by a pitch allowing Cory Heffron to score giving the Raiders a 2 – 0 lead. Meanwhile, Raider starter Chris Rodriguez breezed through the first two innings, allowing only a harmless base hit to Flyer DH Connor Echols, while whiffing three Dayton batters. The Flyers broke through in the third with an unearned run on a throwing error to cut the deficit in half at 2 – 1.
With starter Chris Rodriquez approaching 65 pitches, and allowing 2 more earned runs in the 4th, Coach Jeff Mercer decided to make a change as he called on Jorge Lozano. The damage for the Raiders could have been worse had Robbie Doring not been thrown out at home on a failed squeeze play. With the Flyers staked to a 3 – 2 lead, the game would be turned over to the bullpens.
Minster graduate Josh Nixon would take the ball for the Flyers in the 4th and enjoyed clean 4th and 5th innings, allowing a leadoff double to Brandon Giltrow, who was left stranded as the Wildcat alum retired the next six batters he faced. After the game the right hander had this to say about his performance; “my curve ball and change was much better tonight than in my last outing, and my fastball seemed to have more pop”. For the record, the JUGS guns had him top out at 86MPH.
Meanwhile, Raider reliever Jorge Lozano had his game on cruise control as he pitched 4.2 impressive innings of relief for the Green and Gold, striking out three, issuing a walk and giving up three hits, while getting a sweet double play from his defense in the 5th. In the sixth, the home standing Raiders scored two unearned runs that would ultimately help to decide the outcome of the game, to which Flyer boss Tony Vittorio said, “we just have to play tougher; make the plays at big moments in the game”. Here the Flyers came up short as Seth Gray reached on an error, and immediately stole second, scoring the unearned run on a Adrian Marquez triple. Kevin Whatley then reached on a fielder’s choice and ended up at third as Adrian Marquez was thrown out at the plate in a rundown. Whately would then score the second unearned run of the inning on a Nick Weibright base knock giving the Raiders the 4-3 lead.
The finish proved to be a microcosm of the previous 20 innings the two rivals played. Coach Vitorrio was going to utilize every Flyer at his disposal, just as he did earlier when he summoned lefthander Peter Rozman to face 3 consecutive Raider hitters. Needing a single run to tie, the Flyer boss went to his bench and Tate Hagan pinch hitting for Robbie Doring promptly responded with a clean base hit. Then the speedy Brad Burkhardt was inserted as a pinch runner for Hagan. After a failed sacrifice, Coach Vitorrio went to his bench once again calling on Takahiro Yamada to pinch hit. After a wild pitch, Yamada got an infield hit and the swift pinch runner Brad Burkhardt scored the tying run on a throwing error knotting the score at four. With the Flyers seemingly seizing momentum Tyler Henry entered the game as the fourth pitcher to see action and promptly struck out the first two hitters and fans from both schools are thinking 12 innings.
Then what Dayton feared, and Wright State expected, came to fruition as Matt Morrow coaxed a walk, followed by Zach Weatherford single, and J.D. Orr walk. With no where to put Gabe Snyder the Raider first baseman works the count to 3-1 and got the deciding run on a ball four call as Matt Morrow jubilantly crossed home giving the Raiders a 2017 sweep of the Flyers.
A dejected, but realistic Coach Vitorrio simply said, “look, to beat the good teams we have to be able to do the little things on a consistent basis.” So for the Flyers work remains to clean things up; while the Raiders continue their momentum moving to Horizon league tourney play and another berth in the NCCA tourney.
Deja vu, indeed!
* Flyer baseball is sponsored, in part, by the generous support of Aldebaran Capital, LLC