THE Bendigo District Cricket Association finals race remains wide open with two home and away rounds remaining.
Following Saturday's round 11 one-day matches, the BDCA ladder is a log jam, with just one game separating second to sixth.
The only guaranteed finalist is the unbeaten ladder-leader Golden Square on 66 points.
Strathdale-Maristians (second), Bendigo United (third), Eaglehawk (fourth) and White Hills (fifth) are all locked on 42 points, with sixth-placed Huntly-North Epsom one game back on 36 points.
In Saturday's match of the round at Harry Trott Oval, Bendigo United proved too good for Strathdale-Maristians, winning by six wickets.
The Suns recovered from early trouble to post 5-199 off their 45 overs on the back of a Travis King century after winning the toss and batting first.
The Suns had been on the backfoot at 4-43 after 15 overs, with Adrian Pappin (0), Cameron Taylor (7), captain Linton Jacobs (5) and Ben Smith (6) all back in the shed.
However, opener King, who survived the early Redbacks' assault, and Ben DeAraugo led the fightback for the reigning premiers.
They added 136 for the fifth wicket as they took the score to 179.
The partnership ended when DeAraugo (47 off 85, two fours, one six) was caught by Bryan Vance off Leigh McDermott.
King combated both the Bendigo United bowlers and the searing heat - Saturday afternoon's temperature ranged between 37.8 and 40.3 degrees - to bat through the innings for an unbeaten 103.
The left-hander brought up his century - his second of the season - in superb style when he blasted McDermott (1-28) for six over mid-wicket.
Miggy Podosky (2-20) was the best of the bowlers for the Redbacks, picking up the key scalps of Pappin and Jacobs.
In reply, Bendigo United got plenty of contributions with the bat as the Redbacks reached 4-203, winning with 26 balls to spare.
The Redbacks winning with plenty of time to spare came after they had earlier required 100 off the last 20 overs for victory.
Ben Gunn - who made a century against the Suns in round one - led the way with an unbeaten 57 off 65 (eight fours) after coming in with the score 2-90.
Opener Matt Pinniger passed the 500-run mark for the season with his 43 off 60, while elevated opener Nick Crawford (24 off 42), Heath Behrens (27 off 48) and Harry Donegan (25 off 25) also played their part.
DeAraugo (2-38) was the only multiple wicket-taker for the Suns, who lost to Bendigo United for the first time since the 2010 grand final.
• White Hills has lost its position in the top four after being outplayed by Huntly-North Epsom at Poyser Motors Oval.
The Power won by 63 runs to keep alive their finals chances in what was their fifth win in their past six games.
Huntly-North Epsom's batsmen put the Power in control of the game after blasting 5-250. Michael Hanson (74, seven fours) and Josh Collinson (71, six fours, one six) both scored half-centuries for the Power.
They combined for a 133-run stand for the second wicket, taking the score from 1-32 to 165.
All-rounder Sam Johnston later continued his good form with an unbeaten 40 (five fours, one six).
Batting at No.6 and coming in with the score 4-191, Johnston scored 40 of the Power's last 59 runs.
The attacking Huntly-North Epsom didn't allow White Hills to bowl one maiden over in the innings.
Gavin Bowles (3-32) claimed three of the Demons' five wickets.
The Demons were bowled out in the 40th over for 187 in their chase.
White Hills had been 2-102 before its last eight wickets fell for 85 runs, including its last four for just 11 runs.
Opener Jayden Sheean battled hard to keep the Demons in the game with 78 (six fours, one six) - his maiden BDCA first XI half-century.
Sheean batted through until he was the ninth wicket to fall with the score on 186.
Bowles (27), Oliver Geary (24) and Gareth Davies (17) were the only other White Hills players to score in double figures in what was the Demons' second loss in a row.
Martyn Nadort (3-19) and Tom Wilson (3-27) claimed three wickets each for the Power, while Johnston was at his economical best with 1-9 off six overs.
• Eaglehawk is back in the top-four following a 93-run win over Sandhurst at Canterbury Park.
There were no problems with the bat this week for the Hawks as they scored at better than a run-a-ball in belting 6-281.
Matt Fitt led the Hawks' run-spree with an aggressive innings as he carried his strong Twenty20 form this season into the one-day game.
Batting at No.5, Fitt belted 87 that included 54 runs in boundaries - six fours and five sixes.
The classy Zac East also provided plenty of entertainment in his 57 that was laced with eight fours and one six.
Opener Andrew Smith (44, seven fours), Anthony West (39, four fours) and Aaron Monro (21) also helped the Hawks - who scored in every over they faced - to their match-winning total.
Steve Becker was the standout with the ball for the Dragons, taking 2-32 off nine overs, while the Hawks were particularly ruthless against the spin duo of Sandhurst captain Craig Howard (0-61 off nine) and teenager Liam Bowe (1-72 off eight).
With a daunting run-chase in front of them, the Dragons replied with 188.
Two of the Dragons' most exciting young talents in Ned Slater (44 n.o. off 67, three fours) and opener Isaac Conway (36 off 50, four fours) were the best of the Sandhurst batsmen.
Howard (24 off 28) and Shane Robinson (22 off 22) both got starts for the Dragons, whose last four wickets fell for 17 runs after they had been 6-171.
Cameron McGlashan (3-42) took his best bowling figures of the season for the Hawks, with his wickets including Sandhurst openers Conway and Sebastian Greene (7).
Hawks' captain Jason Abbott was damaging in the field with two run-outs.
• Bendigo's winning streak extended to three with its five-wicket victory over Strathfieldsaye at Bendigo District RSL Oval.
Chasing the Jets' 9-210, the Goers answered with 5-215 as they won with 10 balls to spare.
Craig Pearce and in-form veteran Mark Ryan provided the backbone of the Goers' successful run-chase with a 146-run stand for the third wicket.
Opener Pearce (77) made his highest first XI score, while Ryan has now made 206 runs in his past three innings following his 73.
Is there a 43-year-old cricketer throughout Victoria in better form than Ryan at the moment?
While Ryan and Pearce - who took the score from 40 to 186 with their partnership - scored the bulk of Bendigo's runs, Alex Pearson (14 n.o.) finished the job, bringing up the winning runs with a six.
Jets' captain Ben Devanny (2-34) picked up two wickets for the Jets.
Earlier, top-order batsmen Cory Devanny (57), Hamish Schumacher (38) and Ben Devanny (35) helped the Jets to their 9-210.
Cory Devanny proved a stumbling block for the Goers for much of the innings. He came in with the score 1-7 and didn't depart until the Jets had reached 175.
His 57 was the first score above 50 by a Jets' player in their past five games.
Opener Jotham Higgs bowled well for the Goers, picking up 2-20 off nine overs to be their leading wicket-taker, while Bendigo also inflicted three run-outs.
• Golden Square continued its domination of neighbours Kangaroo Flat, winning by five wickets in the top versus bottom clash at MyJet Oval.
The Roos battled their way to 134 batting first in an innings where only opener Josh Newlan (38, six fours) and captain Adam Burns (25, four fours) passed 20.
Having been 5-106, there was little resistance from the Roos' lower order as no player from No.6 and below in the batting order made more than four.
Golden Square's Luke Baird is now the outright leading wicket-taker in the BDCA, with his 3-38 taking him to 27 scalps for the season.
Kangaroo Flat gave itself an early glimmer of hope of defending its score when it had Square 2-28.
However, the trio of Scott Johnson (38, four fours), captain Tim Wood (30, two fours, two sixes) and the game's top-scorer, Jason Johnson (43 n.o., seven fours), ensured Golden Square's unbeaten record remained intact as it moved four games clear at the top of the ladder.
Shane Harling (2-9) snared two of the five wickets for the battling Roos, who haven't beaten Golden Square in their past 10 clashes.