A strong all-round performance led to the first win of the season for the Doncaster Dragons, who beat Newport 6-3 at Deep Creek on Saturday.
There was no dazzling pitching or offensive onslaught, just solid baseball in all departments as the Dragons cooled off the Rams, who had opened the season with a win over Geelong and a narrow loss to reigning premier Essendon.
Strong defence was the key. Unlike last week’s game, which was marred by four Doncaster errors, this time the Dragons made some key defensive plays at crucial times to end scoring threats. Third baseman Nic Unland led the way with some magnificent plays, twice robbing the Rams of hits that would have made the game much tighter.
For the second consecutive week it was a picture-perfect Saturday at Deep Creek, warm and sunny with a gentle breeze.
After a scoreless top of the first inning, Doncaster established some early dominance as the first three batters, Scott Couling, Andrew Mazzocato and Ben Utting, all walked to load the bases. Unland then delivered the first hit of the game and drove in two runs to give the home team the early lead.
The scoreboard kept ticking over for the Dragons, who scored in each of the first four innings. In the second, Scott Carr walked, stole second and scored on Couling’s single.
An inning later, the bases were again loaded as Utting was hit by a pitch on an 0-2 count, import Javan Willams collected his first hit for his new club and Unland walked. A groundout by Mitch Ellis scored Utting to give Doncaster a 3-0 lead.
The lead grew by one in the fourth inning, when Andrew Mazzocato drew a two-out walk and scored on Utting’s double.
While the runs were accumulating, starting pitcher Steele Ratcliffe kept the Newport offence quiet. Ratcliffe held the Rams scoreless through three innings before allowing a sole run in the fourth.
He was relieved by Rhys Hopper, who pitched three innings for two runs on three hits and two walks, with one strikeout.
After a scoreless fifth inning, The Dragons added an insurance run in the sixth. Carr led off with an infield hit, advanced to third thanks to a Newport throwing error and scored on Utting’s second RBI hit of the game.
The finishing touches were applied by Williams, who made hit his pitching debut in the same game as he had collected his first hit. Williams struggled with his control, walking four batters in two innings, but did not allow a run as he earned the save.
Saturday games are no longer a rarity for the Dragons, who will play their third in a row when they host Geelong next weekend.