The bottom of the batting order led the way as the Doncaster Dragons charged to an important win over Sunshine at Deep Creek on Saturday.
Doncaster’s 7-8-9 hitters, Scott Couling, Andrew Reeves and Mitch Ellis, combined to go 7 for 9, with five runs scored and three RBIs as the Dragons won 8-5.
On the warmest day of the season so far, the Dragons chalked up their second win, outplaying Sunshine in all facets of the game but still having to fight hard to put the game away.
Despite trailing for almost the entire game, the Eagles would not go away, making the home team work for every base and staying within reach with some solid at-bats.
If the Dragons had lost this game, they would no doubt have looked back on some early scoring opportunities that were wasted.
After taking the early lead against Sunshine starter Chris Prokupek, on a double by Ben Utting and an RBI single by Nic Unland, Doncaster had a chance to build on the lead in the second inning. Four consecutive batters reached base, but none of them scored, thanks to a pickoff and a caught stealing.
After Sunshine tied the game with an unearned run in the third inning, that failure to capitalise on opportunities loomed large. But a very productive fourth and fifth innings, in which the Dragons piled on seven runs, soon wiped the earlier misfortune from the memory bank.
Couling got the ball rolling with a walk, went to third on Reeves’ double, then both scored on Ellis’s single through a drawn-in infield. A double off the wall by Javan Williams scored Ellis and gave Doncaster a handy 4-1 lead.
That margin grew wider in the fifth, thanks to walks by Unland and Couling, plus doubles by Scott Carr and Reeves. Some sloppy infield work by the Eagles allowed two more runs to score, and suddenly the Dragons had a seemingly comfortable 8-1 lead.
While all these runs were being scored, the Dragons needed a steady hand on the mound to make sure the lead stayed safe. They had exactly that with starter Steele Ratcliffe, who did what was required by pitching six solid innings, allowing just five hits and two earned runs, with one walk and one strikeout.
Bullpen pitchers Rhys Hopper and Williams did the clean-up work, ensuring the lead stayed safe by restricting Sunshine to two runs over the final three innings.
After a string of Saturday games at home, next week the Dragons face a totally different challenge when they take on Waverley at Napier Park on Sunday.
For more images from Saturday’s game, check out http://www.vicsummerleague.baseball.com.au/default.asp?Page=95957