When the wind blows in at Newport, hits are hard to come by and the team that has the better pitching and defence usually comes out on top. And so it proved on Sunday, when the Doncaster Dragons were significantly better in both of those categories and won 8-2 over an erratic Rams team that had recently enjoyed a five-game winning streak.
To nobody's surprise, Luke Westphal started for Doncaster and dominated the Newport hitters. Westphal hardly needs favourable conditions to be effective, but given the wind blowing in he was never going to concede many runs. And when the Rams handed the Dragons some early runs with some defensive miscues, it set the scene for another win for the Doncaster left-hander.
Newport infielders combined for eight errors for the game, compared with Doncaster's one. When Doncaster took the lead with three runs in the second inning, the three runners who scored had all reached base without a hit. Brendan McDonald was the first beneficiary, reaching on an error and scoring the first run of the game on Dennis Ward's single. Callum Lethborg, who had walked, and Andrew Mazzocato, who had reached on an error, all scored to make it 3-0.
The Dragons added to the lead in the fifth inning. With two outs and nobody on, McDonald drew a walk and Lethborg reached on an error. Mazzocato drove in McDonald with a single, then Lethborg scored on another infield error to stretch the lead to 5-0. Another two runs were tacked on in the seventh inning. McDonald reached on yet another error, Lethborg crushed a double into the left field corner and Nic Unland came up with his third hit of the day.
By this stage Westphal had left after six innings of shutout, during which he allowed just three hits and two walks, with eight strikeouts. His departure paved the way for an exciting moment for the Dragons: the debut of young Dutch pitcher Matz Schutte. The 17-year-old Minnesota Twins prospect is a long way from home, but he looked completely at ease in his new colours. His smooth, easy action makes his fastball seem effortless, but he struck out five Rams in two innings of work and showed that he will be a very handy acquisition for his adopted club.
Andrew Chesterton was called upon to finish the game, and he did exactly that with a minimum of fuss, disposing of the Rams in order to complete the win.
Marcel D'Avoine was the only Dragon other than Unland to have multiple hits, with a single, a double, plus an RBI and a run scored. He also made the best defensive play of the game, with a diving stop at second base an an accurate throw.
The same two teams clash again on Wednesday night at Altona, starting at 6.30pm.