Dragons claw Tigers in a thriller

Persistence when behind and resilience when in front were the keys for the Doncaster Dragons as they beat Upwey-Ferntree Gully in a hard-fought game  at Deep Creek on Saturday.

Playing their final home game of the season, the Dragons continued their late-season surge, winning 8-7 in a contest between two evenly matched teams.  Such an outcome looked remote early in the game as the visiting Tigers score four runs before the Dragons could get on the board.

But things started to turn around in the fourth inning. Ben Utting led off with a walk, and the next three Doncaster hitters – Javan Williams, Marcel D’Avoine and Brendan McDonald – all hit safely. One out later, Andrew Reeves singled to drive in the third run of the inning and make the score a more palatable 4-3.

In the fifth inning the Dragons took the lead for the first time. Nic Unland walked and was sacrificed to second by Scott Carr. Unland then scored easily on Utting’s double to tie the game. D’Avoine then drove in Utting with a single to put his team in front.

After a scoreless sixth, the Dragons tacked on some insurance runs in the seventh. Carr led off with a single and Utting reached on a dropped fly ball. D’Avoine then produced his fourth hit of the game to drive in a run, and McDonald followed with his third hit to drive in two more and give Doncaster a four-run lead.

Starting pitcher Rhys Hopper departed after six solid innings in which he allowed five hits and two walks, with three strikeouts.

Despite being four runs down, the Tigers refused to give up, scoring three in the eighth inning to reduce the deficit to one.

Doncaster relief pitcher Callum Lethborg was given the tough assignment of pitching the final three innings to earn the save and did exactly that, maintaining his nerve to throw a scoreless ninth and ice the game.

The Dragons will try to finish the season on a high note when they travel to Blackburn for the final game of the 2013-14 season next Saturday.