Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.


The Flyers scored early, and often enough through the first five innings;  but could not withstand prosperity.  They lost the first game of their Saturday twinbill, and the series, to George Mason.

Dayton – It’s just possible – just a theory – that the Dayton Flyers baseball team is ‘snakebit’.

In baseball terms that means…unable to handle prosperity – fate when it appears willing to smile on you.

The Flyers (10-23, 1-6, A-10) lost the first game of Saturday’s double-header with George Mason University, 8-6, and in doing so, the series with the now 16-20 (5-3, A-10) Patriots.  But not for lack of trying.

They jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning on a three-run home run by first baseman Brandon Smith, his fifth of the season.

However, sophomore starter Tyler Henry immediately gave up a wind-blown shot of his own to Patriot catcher Tyler Nelin to start the second inning.  That set a tone.

Mason came back in the top of the third to post three more runs, benefiting from two costly errors on a ground to third, and a double-play ball to second that would have gotten Tyler Henry out of the inning.  For the second day in a row it gave Mason added outs that would come back to haunt.  But wait!

Smith, leading off the bottom of the third, thumped his second homer of the game, to center field, to tie the game at 4-4.

And the Flyers, feeding off the control issues of Mason starter Brian Marconi, then proceeded to load the bases.  Unfortunately, they left them there when catcher Bailey Montoya and third baseman Pat Meehan struck out, back to back.

More of that same tone.

Right fielder Tate Hagen gets piled up attempting a diving catch in the sixth inning.

Right fielder Tate Hagen gets piled up attempting a diving catch in the sixth inning.

Mason came back to score two in the top of the fourth;  the Flyers came back to score two in the bottom of the fifth to tie.  By this time Tyler Henry was long gone in favor of freshman reliever R.J. Wagner.  And Wagner was effective, but developed a blood blister on his throwing hand in the top of the sixth and was forced to leave the game.

It was the opening Mason needed, scoring a go-ahead run (7-6) with a single off reliever Peter Rozman – and only a fabulous throw from right field by Tate Hagan, and an equally fabulous tag at the plate by catcher Bailey Montoya to retire first baseman Tim Quinn, kept a eighth run off the board…temporarily.

That run would come in the top of the seventh off Kevin Piersol, the Flyers’ third pitcher of the day.

In the meantime, George Mason’s bullpen, Bryce Nightengale, Tim Turner, Ryan Ricci, and anchored by Ryan Galvin in the ninth, figured out the Flyer attack, especially Brandon Smith.  No more fastballs, or the risk of having one leave the park on in the freeway breeze blowing out to left, and made the Flyers try and do damage on the breaking pitch.

The strategy worked as the Flyers went out quietly in the eighth and ninth inning.

Centerfielder Brad Burkhart runs out of room trying to catch a ball off the bat of Mason's Brady Acker in the third inning.

Centerfielder Brad Burkhart runs out of room trying to catch a ball off the bat of Mason’s Brady Acker in the third inning.

They had their chances.  Boy, did the Flyers have their chances, leaving the bases loaded in both the second and third innings.  For want of a two-out hit they could have broken the game open early, putting the pressure on George Mason to come back late, instead of themselves.

As it was the Flyers left 11 men on base through the first seven innings, more than enough to put the game away.  But whatever it is that stands between 10-22 teams and 22-10 teams, it bit Dayton once again.  Injuries, errors, two-out hits – it’s all contributed to what can only be called…a ‘funk’.

“It’s all of it,”  said Tony Vittorio Saturday.  “The difference in the game was our lack of a two-out hit when we had all those men on base.  We had 10 hits, but we couldn’t hit when we needed to hit, obviously.  We gave up a lot of free bases, too, and all of that contributes.”

That and the ability to make more of that early three-run lead!

“The sign of a good pitcher is to be able to take an inning like the third and shut things down.  We’ve defended pretty well all year, but we had the two errors in the third that gave them life and Tyler couldn’t overcome that today.”

8 runs on 11 hits with no errors and 11 left on base for the winning Patriots.

6 runs on 10 hits with two errors and 11 left on base for losing Dayton.

Some call it ‘snakebit’.  Some would call it a lost weekend.

The Flyers can claim both!

*  Flyer baseball is sponsored, in part, by the generous support of Aldebaran Capital, LLC