With moments to spare before the city of Dayton’s Lights in Flight fireworks were set to begin at 10 p.m., Dayton Dragons pitcher Connor Bennett had to get three outs.
“When I heard them start going off, I honestly couldn’t even hear myself think,” he said. “I think it was harder for the hitter than it was for me, personally, but they were definitely in my mind.”
The fireworks wouldn’t keep Bennett from getting the job done. The right-hander tossed his 11th straight scoreless outing as the Dragons beat the Bowling Green Hot Rods 4-2 in front of 7,879 fans on Wednesday night at Fifth Third Field. The Dragons split the two-game series with the Hot Rods, improving to 5-8 in the second half and 33-50 on the season.
Dayton’s Michael Siani, Mariel Bautista, Juan Martinez and Bren Spillane each had two hits for the Dragons.
Bennett, a 34th round pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 2015 from Buford, Ga. hasn’t allowed a run since May 31. In his last 11 appearances, he’s pitched 12.1 innings with 18 strikeouts, earning seven saves. He’s also dropped his earned run average from 3.60 to 2.41.
“It’s a mindset,” Bennett said. “I’ve been working with (Dragons pitching coach Seth Etherton) and really attacking hitters and being a bulldog on the mound. It’s really working for me this year and that’s what I try to do every outing — attack, attack, attack and have that aggressive mentality.”
Bennett’s 11th save of the season didn’t come easy. Bowling Green’s Izzy Wilson led off the ninth inning with a single and Jordan Qsar nearly tied the game on a deep fly ball to center field that was caught on the warning track by Miles Gordon.
“Off the bat, I thought it was a tie game to be honest with you,” Bennett said. “I saw Miles camp under it and I caught a break.”
Bennett struck out the next batter Kevin Santiago. Wilson moved to second base on a wild pitch, but the Hot Rods’ Ford Proctor grounded out to first base to end the game.
“It was an awesome win,” Bennett said. “(Bowling Green) is probably the best team in the league. They’ve kicked our butt all year, so it’s really nice to get one from them when we can.”
Dragons starter Ricky Salinas earned his fourth victory of the season, allowing one earned run on three hits with four strikeouts and four walks in five innings of work.
“Ricky had a good outing,” said Dayton manager Luis Bolivar. “He competed out there. He went through a couple situations and came through it clean. We extended his pitch limits a little bit to line him up for the win and he was well deserving.”
The Dragons wore special red, white and blue uniforms as part of the Fourth of July festivities at Fifth Third Field.
Homestand: The Dragons began a two-game series at Bowling Green on Thursday and Friday before returning home for one of their longest homstands of the season — a 10-day, 9-game homestand from July 6 through 15.
They’ll host the South Bend Cubs from July 6 through 8 and then have an off-day on July 9. They’ll play back-to-back three game series against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (July 10-12) and the Beloit Snappers (July 13-15).