Dayton falls 4-3 in non-league game … Pitching performing sufficiently, but bats have gone silent … Late threat ends with strikeout as Flyers fall to 10-22
DAYTON — Tony Vittorio is taking a new approach with his offensively challenged team, and that was readily apparent in the opening inning of a non-league game Tuesday against Ohio University.
After his lead-off hitter drew a walk, the 17th-year Dayton coach had his next batter drop a bunt to advance the runner. A sacrifice in the first inning? With the meat of the order coming up?
That’s not how Earl Weaver, John McGraw or Sparky Anderson would do it, and it’s not the way Vittorio likes to play, either.
But when you have only two starters hitting above .300, and your team is lugging around a .238 batting average — which is a full 50 points lower than OU’s clip — your options are pretty limited.
“You can see we’re going to the short game as soon as we can. That means we’re not hitting very well,” Vittorio said.
“It’s out of the baseball norm, but we’re going to continue to do that the rest of this year at least and try to get on the board.”
Small ball actually worked for an inning — UD scratched out two runs on two hits in the first — but OU knocked starter Mason Kutruff out of the game with a four-run sixth inning on their way to a 4-3 win at Time Warner Stadium.
“It’s frustrating because we can’t put big innings together,” Vittorio said after his team fell to 10-22. “We have to pitch and play defense and manufacture runs.
“It was a pitcher’s day with the wind blowing in. We flew out and popped up too many times when you need line drives and ground balls. It got boring down at the third-base box — until the ninth.”
Short Stop Nick Ryan grabs a fly ball hit by an OU hitter.
Trailing 4-2, the Flyers put a scare into the Bobcats (15-17) in their final at-bat — despite starting the inning with two strikeouts.
Cameron Silva reached second on a misplayed liner to right, and Nick Weybright and Mitch Coughlin had back-to-back infield hits in the hole at short as Silva scored.
But Cale Dineen, who has played just four games because of injuries, whiffed to end the threat.
“It’s been the same thing — we’re just not manufacturing runs,” said Vittorio, whose team has just 17 home runs in 32 games.
“I think our pitching has competed pretty well. There are six to seven guys who are showing well on the mound. It’s the offensive piece we’re missing.”
The Flyers wasted a commendable outing by Kutruff, a sophomore lefty from Martinsville, Ind. He breezed through the first five innings, allowing no runs and one hit while striking out five — including all three batters in the fourth.
But he lost his command in the sixth. Two singles and his own errant throw on a bunt loaded the bases.
After a pop-out, Rudy Rott stepped to the plate, and the Flyers had some “Rott-en” luck. The Bobcats’ No. 3 batter blooped a two-run single to right, tying the score and ending Kutruff’s day.
Reliever Ben Polansky surrendered a walk and two straight RBI singles before applying a tourniquet to the bleeding.
Kutruff, who fell to 2-4, was bemoaning his error afterward.
“You’ve got to be able to field bunts in those situations and make good throws,” he said. “I just rushed it.”
That’s particularly costly when your offense is in a deep funk.
But Vittorio wasn’t blaming his pitcher afterward.
“I thought Mason threw pretty well,” he said. “You can’t question our guys on whether the effort is there. We just have to get better.”
Cale Dineen, who has played just four games because of injuries, can’t make the stretch to get this OU batter out.