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Dragons look for fresh start

Count Dayton Dragons catcher Joe Hudson among those looking for a fresh start in the second half of the season.

“For some of us, the first half didn’t go as planned,” Hudson, who hit .234 with 12 RBIs, said before the Dragons began a homestand against Lake County on Thursday. “It is nice to get a chance to start over with a fresh mind and fresh attitude.”

The Dragons finished 28-41 in the first half but have a chance to make the playoffs if they can finish in the top two of the Eastern Division in the second half.

“We have the ability to split the season, but those games counted,” Hudson said. “Mentally we are starting over, so it is like a mulligan.”

For Hudson, most important is entering the second half with a better understanding of the pitching staff.

“I am one of the older ones on the team (22),” Hudson said. “All the pitchers are younger than me and it is helping them learn their job, their responsibilities and keeping them cool. The big thing is I know them a lot better now than during the first half.”

Ready to fire: Pitcher Jackson Stephens is ready to take the mound for his first start with the Dragons tonight.

“I’m excited,” Stephens said. “I can’t wait. It will be fun. I have been waiting for this to happen. I am closer to home and it will be a little different.”

Stephens was the Reds’ 18th-round draft pick in 2012 out of Oxford (Ala.) High School, where he led his team to the Alabama 6A state title as a senior in 2012.

Stephens spent the first part of the season in Arizona at extended spring training.

“I’ve just got to be mentally ready to go,” Stephens said. “Performing in front of the fans will be a little different for me, but I think I will handle it well.”

Stephenson eyes July: Dragons ace Robert Stephenson began light running Thursday as he continues to work his way back from a strained right hamstring.

Stephenson, 5-3, suffered the injury on June 9, in warmups the day after his last start.

The right-hander is aiming to be back on the mound for the Dragons’ first homestand in July.

Attendance milestone: The Dragons played before another capacity crowd at Fifth Third Field, surpassing the eight-million mark in home attendance all-time.

The team has sold out every game (949) in its 14-year history. The streak includes 938 regular-season games, nine playoff games and two Midwest League All-Star Games, the latest coming Tuesday night.

On the air: Home games at 7:05 p.m. today and Saturday will be broadcast live on WHIO Digital Channel 7.2 (Time Warner Basic Cable Channel 23 and Digital Channel 372). The Dragons have made some changes to their television broadcast schedule, adding games on June 20, July 28 and August 17.

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