Getting only three base hits against the top team is not usually a recipe for success. But the Doncaster Dragons began 2017 with a 5-1 win over the Werribee Giants at Deep Creek despite a lukewarm offensive performance.
The key to success for the Dragons was taking advantage of early scoring opportunities and keeping Werribee to a low score with high-quality pitching and solid defence.
After the Giants scored one run in the first inning, the Dragons wasted no time erasing the lead. Nic Unland led off with a walk and went to second when Scott Carr singled. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, then Unland scored on Ben Utting's groundout to tie the scores. Rhys Aldenhoven followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Carr and gave the Dragons a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
Werribee lent a helping hand in the third inning. Unland again walked, as did Carr, and both advanced on a wild pitch. Aldenhoven then hit a ground ball back to the pitcher, whose throw was late and wayward as Unland scored. On the same play, the Werribee catcher's throw sailed over the pitcher’s head, allowing Carr to score and give Doncaster a 4-1 lead.
With Tyler Cooklin on the mound, that lead never looked in danger of being erased. Cooklin pitched five innings, allowing four hits and three walks, with six strikeouts.
And if an insurance run was needed, who better to provide it than Cooklin himself? His solo home run over the left field fence made it 5-1.
Carr switched from right field to the mound in the sixth inning and continued where Cooklin had left off, allowing just two hits and no walks in three innings, while striking out three.
Aldenhoven finished off the pitching work with a scoreless ninth, including two strikeouts, to ice the win.
The win lifted the Dragons to top place in the standings, leapfrogging over the Giants. That top position will be up for grabs again when the two teams meet at La Trobe University on Tuesday night.
- John McDonald