In a curious instance of oddly-timed scheduling, the Diamond Dogs journeyed to Rome for a non-conference date with Kennesaw State. Georgia was looking to continue its 11-game winning streak against an opponent the Red and Black might find it easy to overlook but which could not be taken lightly.
As usual, the Bulldogs wasted no time in getting on the board. After the Owls went quietly to begin the opening stanza, Jonathan Wyatt led off the bottom of the first frame by putting a base hit into right field and stealing second. A Joey Side pop-up advanced the Red and Black right fielder to third base, then a Gordon Beckham triple plated the first Georgia run of the afternoon.
Josh Morris followed that up with a double down the left field line to bring Beckham home. When Bobby Felmy drew a base on balls, both of the Bulldogs then aboard stole bases, putting Felmy on second and Morris on third. After Kyle Keen grounded out, a Ryan Peisel single tacked on two more runs and gave the Diamond Dogs a 4-0 advantage at the end of one inning.
Morris went two for four with an R.B.I. and a run. (Photograph courtesy University of Georgia Athletic Association.)
The K.S.U. bats remained silent through the top of the second stanza, then the Red and Black returned to work, beginning with consecutive singles by Wyatt and Side. A Beckham double scored Wyatt and a base hit by Felmy scored Side and Beckham to make the score 7-0 after two innings.
An uneventful third inning produced no hits by either team, then the Owls awoke and put an end to the no-hitter after Adam McDaniel came on in relief of Jason Leaver. Martin Baker walked, then stole second base. Jay Morrow singled to center field and so did Scott Hendrix.
A Matt Dallas single came after an Andy Hudson sacrifice fly. Although Dallas ultimately was caught stealing, three runs crossed the plate to cut into the Georgia lead, causing me to become nervous about what once had appeared to be a laugher.
The Owls are not what they seem.
The Bulldogs had nothing to show for the bottom of the fourth frame and K.S.U. approached the fifth inning as aggressively as the one before. Jacob Robbins walked and stole second base. When Baker walked, as well, McDaniel was chased from the game and replaced by Jason Fellows, who gave up a base on balls to Morrow before buckling down and ending the scoring threat.
Perhaps recognizing the need to take the Owls more seriously (and give my frayed nerves some relief), the Diamond Dogs reasserted themselves in the bottom of the inning. Keen belted out a single, stole second base, and took third on an error, allowing Peisel's subsequent single up the middle to give the Red and Black their 11th hit and their eighth run of the evening.
Not content to allow me even the slightest peace of mind, Kennesaw State kept hanging around in the sixth inning, which was nothing but Matthews at the outset as Dallas singled to center field, Matt Nelson walked, and Matt Hopkins doubled to left center to cut the lead to 8-5.
Subsequent singles by Robbins, Baker, and Morrow added two more runs to narrow the gap to a nerve-wracking 8-7. The bottom of the sixth inning and the top of the next passed without further dramatics and a leadoff double by Morris in the bottom of the seventh stanza came to naught, so the score remained unchanged heading into the eighth frame.
Is it really too much to ask that the Diamond Dogs be able to put away the Fighting Owls without undue difficulty? (Photograph courtesy Kennesaw State University.)
After much reshuffling of the Georgia defense, the Owls opened the top of the inning with two quick outs. A Robbins single to left field brought Rip Warren to the mound as the fifth Bulldog hurler of the outing and, after permitting Baker to punch a single through the right side to move the Kennesaw State shortstop into scoring position, the Red and Black reliever induced Morrow to ground out to the mound to end the threat.
Justin Freeman came on to pitch the bottom of the eighth for K.S.U. and he lasted all of two batters, getting Matthew Dunn to ground out and walking Jason Jacobs before Casey Rogers was brought on in relief of him. Rogers gave up a single to Wyatt, but no damage was done as Jacobs was out at third and Side flied out in the next at-bat.
The pitching assignment fell to Joshua Fields in the top of the ninth as the Georgia closer was called upon to protect a one-run lead. Hendrix swung at strike three, then Hudson grounded out to short and, just like that, the Owls were down to their last out. Dallas struck out swinging to give Fields his 13th save and award the Diamond Dogs their 12th straight victory.
There's no way to feel good about this one; despite tallying eight runs on 14 hits, the Red and Black were outscored 7-1 in the final seven stanzas and they barely came away with a win over a team they should have handled easily. Still, it will go down in the record books as a victory and that's what counts, however poorly the Bulldogs may have played in attaining a favorable outcome.