When the Dayton Dragons broke spring training and headed to Dayton, they believed the make up was right to make a strong run for the Midwest League title.
Then a 28-41 first half unfolded, leaving them 16 games out of first at the break.
“We knew when we broke camp that we could be big-time contenders,” outfielder Jesse Winker said. “We had a slow start and that happens to teams. When we needed a big hit, we didn’t get it and when we needed the ball to bounce our way, it didn’t.”
What a difference that three-day break made.
With 34 games left in the second half, the Dragons sit just two games out of the wild card in the Eastern Division and four behind division leader Bowling Green.
“We just aren’t looking at the playoffs, we are looking at winning the championship,” Winker said. “We want to bring a ring back. There is no pressure on us right now. As long as we do what we have been doing, we will be there at the end. It has been really fun.”
After recording no wins in their last at-bat in the first half of the season, the Dragons have had four walk-off wins in the second half and have recorded six wins after trailing after seven this half.
“I think in the first half when we got down early, we kind of softened up and expected to lose,” catcher Joe Hudson said. “Now, we have proven we can come back. If we are down early, we expect to do it now.”
Seth Meijas-Brean, whose walk off grand slam against Beloit is one of the biggest comeback hits of the season, agrees with Hudson.
“I think we are more level-headed now,” Meijas-Brean said. “We found out we can still produce. If we are down six runs, we know we can still find ways to win.”
Some of the improvement has come from getting used to the level of play and some lengthy talks and practices by manager Jose Nieves.
“We did a lot of instruction in the first half,” Nieves said. “At the end, you are looking for it to click. Every game is different, but to see them turn things around has been beautiful.”
The recent charge has brought a lot more relaxed looks in the clubhouse and the field.
“It is hard to put a finger on it,” outfielder Beau Amaral said. “Our team chemistry has been awesome. But when you are winning, it is easy to have fun, and we are definitely having fun right now.”
Everest winner: Dragons President Robert Murphy was named the award recipient of the second annual Everest Award Friday night by the West Chester — Liberty Chamber Alliance.
The Chamber Alliance presents the award to leaders who have had a positive impact on business, the community or quality of life along the I-75 corridor.