Dragons claw Wildcats for three wins in a row

Three in a row! The Doncaster Dragons continued their streak of narrow wins with a 3-2 victory over Waverley in yet another thriller at Deep Creek on Saturday.

In a high-standard pitchers' duel (sound familiar?), the Dragons prevailed with some timely hitting and the usual top-quality pitching performance by Luke Westphal. It's a measure of Westphal's dominance that his total of "only" nine strikeouts was among his lowest for the season. But he was as effective as usual through seven innings, allowing only one unearned run on three hits and one walk.

Making life tough for the Dragons was Waverley starter Jon Kennedy, who was equally as tough through six innings, in which he allowed just the one run.

The key moment in the game came in the seventh inning. With the scores locked at 1-1, Matz Schutte reached on an infield single and was bunted to second by Nic Unland's second successful sacrifice of the game. With first base open, the  Wildcats made the not-unreasonable decision to intentionally walk Ben Utting. That brought up Brendan McDonald, who then produced the only extra-base hit of the game, a double to right field that scored Schutte and Utting.

After McDonald was thrown out at home by a terrific outfield assist, the Dragons held a 3-1 lead and turned to Callum Lethborg to complete the job. Lethborg allowed a run in the eighth inning but slammed the door in the ninth, striking out two Wildcats to earn the save.

Earlier, Waverley had taken the lead in the third inning on an unearned run after a seemingly picked-off base stealer was hit in the back by a throw and later scored on one of only three hits Westphal would give up for the game.  The lead did not last long. In the fourth inning, Utting led off with a single, then stole second. He advanced to third on McDonald's infield single and then tried to score but was cut down in a close play at the plate. Two outs later, Billy Findlay produced a clutch hit that scored McDonald to make it 1-1.

Has Doncaster ever had a season sweep over Waverley in the club's history? It's doubtful. But the Dragons have a chance to achieve that feat when they travel to Napier Park on Tuesday night.

- John McDonald