One bad inning was all it took for the Doncaster Dragons to lose a rapid-fire game against Waverley at Napier Park on Sunday.
The Dragons led 3-0 for much of the game but saw that lead evaporate - and then some - as the Wildcats piled on six runs in the sixth inning and another two in the seventh, to win 8-3. Oddly for a game with such a scoreline, it was over in less than two hours - a reflection of the dominance of the pitchers for much of the time.
A terrific five innings of shutout pitching by Doncaster starter Steele Ratcliffe went to waste as the Wildcat hitters found their form and capitalised on some sloppy Doncaster defence. Ratcliffe left in the sixth inning having allowed seven hits and two earned runs, with one strikeout and one walk.
The first two innings breezed by with neither team looking like scoring. But all that changed in the top of the third, as the Doncaster hitter suddenly took a liking to Waverley starter Jon Kennedy. Mitch Ellis got things rolling with a one-out double and was soon joined on the basepaths by Javan Williams, who walked. A perfect bunt by Andrew Mazzocato loaded the bases for Ben Utting, whose double scored Mazzocato and Williams. With Nic Unland batting, Utting scored on a passed ball, robbing Unland of the RBI he would have had after a double to left field.
Many times in recent seasons the Dragons have been punished for failing to add on after scoring early runs. And so it was again in this game, mainly due to an impressive performance by Kennedy. The tall lefty shook off the woes of the third inning and proceeded to dominate through eight innings, allowing just four hits and one walk, with no more runs conceded. In fact, the Dragons did not get a base hit between them after that productive third inning.
The Dragons don't have long to wait before getting a chance to extract some revenge for this defeat. They meet Waverley again in the first midweek game of the season at Napier Park on Tuesday night.