I observed previously that 16-10 sounded more like an S.E.C. football score from the 1970s than an S.E.C. baseball score from the 21st century . . . yet it happened again in the Diamond Dogs' conference tournament showdown with the Gamecocks on Friday.
Georgia's Nathan Moreau had a rough outing, giving up seven earned runs in under two innings' worth of work. South Carolina led off the bottom of the first frame with Cheyne Hurst reaching on a fielding error, James Darnell reaching on a fielder's choice, Neil Giesler getting a base hit, and Justin Smoak (who went three for five with four R.B.I. and two runs) belting a three-run homer to left center field to give the Big Chickens a 3-0 lead.
You need a better reason to dislike South Carolina? Well, fine, then . . .
The second stanza was twice as bad for the Red and Black. Robbie Grinestaff singled to right field to start the inning, then took second base on a wild pitch. Ian Paxton plated two more runs on a dinger to left center, then, after the first two outs of the inning were recorded, there followed a Darnell walk, a Giesler single, a Smoak single, and a Phil Disher home run following a pitching change. All told, the Palmetto State Poultry put up half a dozen runs in the second frame, giving them a 9-0 lead on the Classic City Canines.
Although the Diamond Dogs' bats had been dormant throughout the first two innings, the Georgia offense came to life in the third. Jonathan Wyatt put the first pitch of the inning into left center field for a base hit. Joey Side walked on five pitches, then Gordon Beckham turned the second pitch he saw into an R.B.I. single.
A Bobby Felmy single scored Side on a fielding error, then Jason Jacobs hammered out a triple that plated two more before he scored a run of his own on a balk following a South Carolina pitching change. By the middle of the third inning, the Gamecocks' lead had been cut to 9-5.
. . . here's a better reason to dislike South Carolina!
The Big Chickens, ostensibly spent after the exertions of the first two frames, went into hibernation, failing to score in the third, fourth, and fifth innings. In the meantime, the Red and Black continued their assault unabated. In the top of the fourth stanza, the Bulldogs put Beckham aboard on a South Carolina throwing error, put Josh Morris aboard when he was hit by a pitch, advanced the runners on a balk, and scored runs on a Felmy sacrifice fly and singles by Kyle Keen and Ryan Peisel. The damage done included an extra trio of runs on the scoreboard, leaving the Gamecocks leading by a one-run margin.
The fifth frame saw more of the same. Wyatt doubled, Side homered, Beckham walked, and Morris, Jacobs, Peisel, and Wyatt all singled. Together with a pair of flyouts and a fielder's choice, these exertions by the Red and Black accounted for an additional half a dozen runs, giving Georgia an improbable 14-9 lead.
It wasn't Elvis in the '68 special or anything, but it was quite a comeback.
The Gamecocks attempted an offensive in the bottom of the sixth inning, but it was too little too late. A leadoff double by Paxton turned into a run when Darnell singled down the left field line, but the Big Chickens were unable to draw any nearer than 14-10 ere a scoreless seventh stanza commenced.
The eighth inning saw the Diamond Dogs pad their lead, as Beckham put the first pitch he saw over the left field wall and a Morris double was transformed into an additional run off of a Jacobs R.B.I. single. With their lead thus secured, the Red and Black put their division rivals away, allowing two baserunners but no runs in the final two innings.
The Bulldogs led the Gamecocks in hits (22-11) and errors (3-2) as well as in runs (16-10), eliminating South Carolina and improving Georgia's record to 40-18 heading into Saturday's showdown---hopefully, showdowns, plural---with the very same Vanderbilt squad that defeated the Diamond Dogs on Wednesday.