Dragons unable to capitalize on hitting blitz

The Doncaster Dragons did a lot of things right but still couldn’t come away with a win in a hard-fought contest against Blackburn at Deep Creek on Saturday.  Although the Dragons collected 13 hits to Blackburn’s four, and despite another solid outing from starting pitcher Steele Ratcliffe, in the end the visitors prevailed 5-3.

With coach and leading hitter Ben Utting nursing an injured hamstring, and young shortstop Mitch Ellis unavailable, it was a new-look Doncaster outfit that took the field.  Utting’s replacement at second base, Marcel D’Avoine, made the most of his first opportunity to start in the ones, collecting line-drive singles with his first two at-bats.

The batting lineup also underwent a shakeup, with Nic Unland taking over in the leadoff role and Javan Williams dropping down the order. Those changes produced spectacular results, with Unland getting four hits and Williams two, along with two stolen bases and an RBI.

Blackburn led 3-0 after two innings, a deficit that would have been much greater if not for a nifty double play turned by D’Avoine and Scott Carr. Despite a costly error, Ratcliffe persevered and kept his team in the game, not allowing a run between the second and sixth innings. He struck trouble in the seventh and was relieved by Rhys Hooper, who pitched two scoreless innings after struggling for control early in his spell.

Having had baserunners in three of the first four innings but failing to convert any of them into runs, the Dragons finally got on the board in the fifth, D’Avoine singled and scored on a double by Ratcliffe, batting for himself as Doncaster went without a designated hitter for the first time this season.

After again failing to take advantage of scoring opportunities, things took a turn for the better in the eighth inning. Carr’s infield hit and stolen base put him in scoring position, then Michael Mazzocato drove him in with a double. When Williams produced an RBI single, the Dragons were back in the game.

But the 5-3 lead proved enough for Blackburn closer Adam Bright, who snuffed out any chance of a Doncaster comeback with his customary efficiency.

The Dragons are entitled to consider themselves unlucky in this game, having had several rallies thwarted by some stellar Blackburn defence, as well as having had a couple of potential run-scoring line drives hit hard but straight at outfielders. Hopefully the luck evens itself out, starting with next week’s home game against Melbourne on Sunday.