Doncaster’s Ds have missed an opportunity to advance directly to the grand final after they lost 11-7 to the Mitchell Majors in Broadford last Saturday.
There was plenty on the line when the two teams met, the winner would advance straight through to the grand final and earn a week off, whilst the loser would be forced to play again next weekend in an elimination game to qualify.
The Dragons were yet to beat the top-placed Majors this year, losing to them twice in the regular season.
Doncaster had a chance to take the lead straight away. A pair two-out hits from Xavier Gleeson and Matt Ignatiadis put runners on second and third, but the big right-hander Pete Ervin was unable to score them, striking out to end the inning.
It didn’t take long for the Majors to capitalise on the missed opportunity.
An error, double and two singles saw the home side tack on three runs in the bottom half of the inning, giving them the early advantage.
The Majors bolstered their lead in the second inning, adding on another two runs to extend their lead to 5-0.
However, momentum started to shift towards Doncaster in the top of the third.
The Dragons scored their first run of the game thanks to a hard-earned Tom Burgoine walk, a Simon Kawanishi double, a Lucas Banjac hit-by-pitch and an RBI groundout from Gleeson.
A quick, scoreless inning from Doncaster pitcher Jared Maddalena helped get the Dragons get back off the field and gave the offence another opportunity to trim the deficit.
Ervin got the fourth inning started in a hurry, crushing a ball to deep-left field and legging out a lead-off triple. Three straight walks to Matt Steele, Chris Nunn and Cam Alan forced in Doncaster’s second run of the game and saw the Majors go to their bullpen for the first time.
Burgoine then lifted a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Steele from third to trim the Mitchell lead to two.
With the game tightening up, the Dragons began to wreak havoc on the base paths. Chris Nunn stole third and then stole home to make it 5-4. Maddalena then reached first on an error by Mitchell’s catcher and after Kawanishi was hit by a pitch, the Dragons had another runner in scoring position.
The tension was immense. Banjac stepped up to the plate with two out and a chance to level the scores. The Doncaster fans who had made the drive up could hardly contain themselves.
He lined a double to left field, scoring Maddalena and tying the ballgame.
But the Dragons weren’t contempt with just tying things up. During the next at-bat, Gleeson picked up his second hit and third RBI of the afternoon, crushing a two-RBI single to left to give the Dragons a 7-5 lead.
Unfortunately for the Dragons, it was not a lead they were able to hold.
The top-placed Majors showed why they ended the season with the most runs scored in their division, responding with five runs on five hits to retake the lead, 10-7.
Doncaster had one last chance to try and come-from-behind again, but to the disappointment of the travelling away fans, they could not muster another comeback. The Majors held the visitors scoreless in the fifth to clinch the victory and a spot in this year’s grand final.
The loss is Doncaster’s third to the Majors this season, having lost to them twice in the regular season as well.
Doncaster will have a second chance to qualify for the Grand Final when they face Wheelers Hill in an elimination final this Saturday at Essendon.