One big inning was enough for the Doncaster Dragons to overcome the Ballarat City Brewers and hold on to top spot in the standings.
The Dragons won 7-3 on a picture-perfect day at Deep Creek on Saturday in a game that marked the first time the two teams had played against each other.
The game was more or less even apart from a five-run sixth inning, which gave Doncaster the lead for the first time.
With Ballarat import Rob Shaw pitching impressively and putting his team in front with a solo home run in the fourth inning, this looked set to be a tight contest to the finish.
But all that changed in the bottom of the sixth inning, when the Dragons turned a seemingly harmless situation into a game-changing charge.
With two outs in a 2-2 game and Callum Lethborg on first after a base hit, Nic Unland kept the inning alive with a single. Scott Carr followed suit, driving in Lethborg to put the Dragons in front.
From there, it all went south for the Brewers. Ben Utting’s pop-up somehow fell safely despite the shortstop and left fielder converging on it, allowing two runs to score. Tyler Cooklin reached base on a dropped third strike, Utting scored on a wild throw and Billy Findlay hit an RBI triple to give his team a 7-2 lead.
The five-run cushion made the job easier for Doncaster starting pitcher Simon Fitzmaurice, who continued his solid form with a seven-inning outing in which he allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks, wit three strikeouts.
Any hope Ballarat had of staging a late comeback was snuffed out by Carr, who switched from the outfield to the mound and did not allow a run in two innings of relief, striking out three and allowing just one hit and a walk.
Doncaster (8-1) head to Malvern on Wednesday night to take on the Braves (1-8).
- John McDonald