Winning opportunity against Royals goes begging...

ANOTHER winning opportunity went begging as the Doncaster Dragons came out on the wrong end of a hard-fought contest at Sandringham on Sunday.

Leading for most of the game, the Dragons were overhauled in the bottom of the sixth inning as the Royals earned a 5-3 victory.

The result was a poor reward for another wholehearted performance by Doncaster starting pitcher Steele Ratcliffe, who again kept his team in the game for a long period but did not get the offensive or defensive support he needed to chalk up a win.

Ratcliffe cruised through the first five innings, allowing just one unearned run, before giving up a succession of hits in the sixth. A mistake on a pickoff play proved costly as the Royals scored four runs and took a lead they would not surrender.

Doncaster got off the a bright start as Scott Carr reached on an infield single and went to third on two wild pitches in quick succession. A groundout to second base by Ben Utting allowed Carr to score easily and gave the Dragons an early 1-0 advantage.

We scored two more in the fourth inning as Utting led off with a walk, Javan Williams reached on error and then Scott Couling and Andrew Mazzocato singled.  But they were the last runs the Dragons were to score for the game as Sandringham starter Grant Hill tightened up, striking out 11 in six-and-two-thirds innings. Closer Matthew Holmes did the rest, shutting the door on any potential Doncaster comeback with two-and-a-third innings of scoreless relief.

The same two teams will square off at Deep Creek on Tuesday night in the second game of the Bendigo Bank Summer Series.