Strong hitting right through the lineup was the key to success as the Doncaster Dragons overcame a sluggish start to beat Malvern 14-9 on Sunday.
The Dragons found themselves 5-0 down after three innings as the Braves got off to a flying start, collecting five hits in the first two innings off Doncaster starting pitcher Simon Fitzmaurice.
But Fitzmaurice turned things around after that, allowing just one more hit in the next four innings as his offence rallied.
Every Doncaster batter had at least one base hit, and they all reached base at least twice in a solid offensive display.
The offensive turnaround began in the fourth inning as Dennis Ward and Travis Cutt both walked. One out later, Ward scored on Derek Medlin’s double, then Cutt crossed the plate on an RBI groundout by Luke Utting.
That put the Dragons on the scoreboard, but the inning was far from over. The next four batters – Nic Unland, Scott Carr, Tyler Cooklin and Billy Findlay, all reached base safely. Then Ward drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk that tied the game at 5-5.
Doncaster took the lead an inning later when Cutt singled, went to second on Callum Lethborg’s single, advanced on Medlin’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Utting’s sacrifice fly.
Cooklin added a run single-handedly in the sixth inning as he belted a double and hustled around the bases, forcing two errant throws that allowed him to score.
Although Malvern hit back with a run in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Dragons put it beyond doubt in the seventh with seven runs in the inning. That inning featured two walks and seven hits, the best of them a doubly by Utting that gave him three RBIs for the day.
That signalled the end for Fitzmaurice, who finished with six innings pitched in which he allowed six runs on nine hits and one walk, with four strikeouts. The lone walk he allowed was in sharp contrast to the three Malvern pitchers, who combined to issue 10 walks and two hit batters.
With a big lead, injured coach Ben Utting took over mound duties for the last three innings. The Braves managed three late runs but never looked like bridging the gap.