Fielding errors proved costly as the Doncaster Dragons lost their season 2013-14 home opener against Preston on Saturday.
On a picture-perfect day, with Deep Creek in great condition, the Dragons lost 12-2 to a Preston team that showed it would be much improved on last season’s ninth placing. While that sort of scoreline usually signifies a lot of offence by one team and poor pitching by the other, this was definitely not the case in this game. In fact, the three Doncaster pitchers used on the day conceded only three earned runs between them, meaning that Preston scored an astonishing nine unearned runs.
As was the case against Essendon in the first game of the season last week, the Doncaster offence looked to be much more potent than it has been in recent years. The first sign of this came in the second inning, when catcher Andrew Reeves launched his first career home run over left field. Reeves’ home run was remarkable for two reasons. It came in the second game of 2013-14, and the Dragons as a team hit just one homer for the entire previous season. Also, the opposing pitcher was Preston ace Edward “Bubbie” Buzachero the league MVP of last summer. Reeves’ home run gave Doncaster the lead, but it didn’t last long.
Starting pitcher Rhys Hopper was dominant for the first three innings. But when he struck problems in the fourth and fifth, his task was made much harder by some sloppy defence. Hopper finished with five innings pitched, allowing eight hits and no walks while striking out four. Although Preston scored five runs while he was on the mound, only two of those were earned. Steele Ratcliffe was highly effective in relief, throwing three scoreless innings and allowing just two hits and a walk. Debutant Marcel D’Avoine was called upon for the ninth inning, only to be greeted by former major leaguer Justin Huber, who promptly smacked a towering home run. It was the only earned run D’Avoine allowed, although the Pirates tacked on some more after another defensive misplay.
The game also marked the Doncaster debut of import Javan Williams, who played right field and showed off his powerful arm with a throw to third base that would have cut down the base-runner had he not wisely returned to second.
While it was hardly a stellar defensive game for the Dragons, it wasn’t all bad news. Infielders Ben Utting and Nic Unland made a couple of terrific defensive plays, and each collected two hits for the game. Michael Mazzocato also had two hits, including a double, and his brother Andrew had Doncaster’s only other hit.
If you like Saturday games at Deep Creek, you won’t have to wait long for the next one. Doncaster plays Newport in an important game for both clubs next Saturday.