Another important win for the Doncaster Dragons - and another tough task for the Bendigo Bank Player of the Game judges. Still, it's not a bad problem to have. Again, several players made strong contributions as the Dragons beat Preston 9-6 at Deep Creek on Thursday night.
This time, the Bendigo Bank award went to Rhys Hopper, who pitched a seven-inning complete game, allowing only three earned runs, striking out four and walking two. Importantly, he also went the distance, keeping Doncaster's bullpen fresh for the weekend.
The judges must have been scratching their heads, as Javan Williams also had a night out, hitting a triple and a double, stealing a base, scoring two runs and driving in two more.
Nic Unland and Ben Utting each had two hits and scored two runs, and John King had a triple and three RBIs. Then there was Andrew Mazzocato, fresh from a game-winning hit last weekend, driving in two more runs this time.
Most importantly, it was another win for the Draons, who are showing fresh signs of a resurgence after an eight-game losing streak.
There were plenty of familiar faces in the Preston line-up with pitchers Jason Blejwas and Stephen Hood, plus utility Cameron Deeble, all former Doncaster players. Coaches Michael Deeble and Stuart Chinn were also accustomed to sitting in the home dugout at Deep Creek.
But there were no friends once the game started, and Preston took the early initiative. Helped by some Doncaster errors, the Pirates scored six runs in the first three innings, the type of output that might have buried previous Doncaster teams.
Happily, this time the Dragons brought some firepower of their own. And they started early. In the first inning, Unland singled, Scott Carr walked, Utting singled, King hit into a fielder's choice for the first out, Chris Nicholas singled and Williams doubled. Mazzocato's single made it a season-high five runs for the inning.
After a quiet second inning, the Dragons found themselves a run down as Preston added three in the second and two in the third. But Williams' triple and subsequent run tied the game at 6-6, and that's how it remained until very late.
With the prospect of a draw looming, the Doncaster hitters again came to life in their final inning, the sixth. Sam Lethborg led off with a walk, then Unland and Carr reached on infield hits to load the bases. Utting's sacrifice fly gave his team the lead, and King's triple down the right field line produced two insurance runs.
Some more solid work by Hopper in the top of the seventh, aided by a nifty double play, gave the Dragons a hard-fought win.
After two wins in a row, dare we hope for a three-game winning streak? We'll find out on Sunday, when the Dragons take on Preston at La Trobe University.