A squeeze play -- what a way to win a game!
The Doncaster Dragons pulled off a dramatic extra-inning win over the Upwey-Ferntree Gully Tigers on Saturday when Ben utting laid down a perfect squeeze bunt, allowing Nic Unland to score the winning run.
The 2-1 result was a fitting reward for the Dragons, who had led for most of the game thanks largely to an outstanding effort by starting pitcher Matz Schutte. In eight innings of work, Schutte allowed just three hits and one walk, striking out four, in his longest and best outing of the season.
Making life tough for Doncaster was an equally impressive performance by Upwey starter Donovan Hendricks, who allowed just one run in a remarkable 10 innings of work.
After two scoreless innings, the Dragons got on the board first, with the unlikeliest of runners crossing the plate. Luke Westphal, the most dominant pitcher in the league, made a rare start at left field and led off the third inning with a single. A sacrifice bunt by Unland was followed by Marcel D'Avouince reaching on an error to send Westphal to third. Utting then opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly that enabled Westphal to score easily.
And so it stayed for the next five innings as Schutte and Hendricks did their thing, helped by solid defence on both sides. The Tigers had a chance to score in the eighth inning but were robbed by a brilliant outfield catch by Westphal, who dived to his right to save at least two runs and preserve the lead.
But Doncaster's joy was short lived as Westphal, coming out the bullpen for the first time, allowed an unearned run on two hits and a walk in the ninth inning to send the game into extras.
After two scoreless innings, the Dragons prevailed in he 12th after Unland and Dennis Ward singled, then Utting called his own play and made the strategy with the perfect squeeze bunt.
The win kept alive Doncaster's chances of finishing the season with a .500 win-loss record. To maintain that opportunity, they will need to win at Geelong on Saturday in the second-last game of the season.