The first round went to Florida State. The second round went to Georgia. The rubber game that would determine the Diamond Dogs' postseason fate was slated to take place at Foley Field on Monday night.
Trevor Holder drew the pitching assignment for the Red and Black and he got off to something of a shaky start. Shane Robinson led off the first frame with a single to right center field before stealing second base. Following a Jack Rye flyout, Buster Posey bunted the runner over to third.
Jack Ryan is an upstanding American, a fine father, and an outstanding C.I.A. agent, but he flied out in his first at-bat. Oh, wait . . . that's Jack Rye, not Jack Ryan? My bad.
Although Ryne Malone fouled out, Dennis Guinn punched a two-out single through the right side to give the visiting Seminoles a 1-0 lead. Further scoring was prevented when Travis Anderson hit into a fielder's choice, but the Bulldogs opened on offense operating at a deficit.
A Joey Side single was all Georgia had to show for the bottom of the first inning, but the first three Seminoles to step into the batter's box in the second stanza flied out, giving the Red and Black another opportunity to put runs on the board. After Bobby Felmy put a loud out into center field, matters began to appear promising for the home team.
Jason Jacobs knocked a base hit through the left side. The Bulldog catcher stole second, after which Matt Olson drew a base on balls. With two men aboard and only one man out, Ryan Peisel was faced with a golden opportunity to even the score, yet the Georgia third baseman watched strike three sail by. The inning ended when Matthew Dunn hit into a fielder's choice.
Robinson reached on a Gordon Beckham error to start the third frame, but Rye flied out and Posey reached first on a fielder's choice that ended Robinson's run ere he reached second base. Malone then struck out swinging to end the threat.
J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield spoke to the angst and anguish of a disaffected generation, but he flied out in his second at-bat. Oh, wait . . . that's Jack Rye, not Catcher in the Rye? My bad.
In the bottom of the third stanza, the Diamond Dogs caught a break. Jonathan Wyatt drew a leadoff walk and Side made the most of it, punching a home run to right field to give the home team a 2-1 advantage. Any hope of a big inning was squelched when the next three Bulldog batters recorded outs in rapid succession.
The Seminoles were unable to get anything going in the top of the fourth frame, but the Red and Black began the bottom of the inning with a base hit by Jacobs. This promising start quickly soured, however, as Olson took a called third strike, Peisel reached on a fielder's choice, and Dunn flied out to left field. At the end of four innings, Georgia was one up on F.S.U. in all three categories: 2-1 in runs, 4-3 in hits, and 1-0 in errors.
In the fifth frame, Robinson singled through the left side for his second hit and Florida State's fourth, but the F.S.U. center fielder was the only Seminole to reach first base in the top of the inning, which ended when Rye flied out to center field.
Henry Chinaski was an autobiographical character through whom Charles Bukowski illustrated the influence that his father's cruelty and his early experimentation with alcohol had upon his writing, but he flied out in his third at-bat. Oh, wait . . . that's Jack Rye, not Ham on Rye? My bad.
The second half of the inning commenced when Wyatt led off by grounding out, but Side's subsequent single succeeded in chasing Seminole starter Mark Sauls from the mound. His successor, Brent Marsh, induced Beckham to ground out, although the Georgia center fielder advanced to second base on the play. Marsh thereafter conceded first base to Josh Morris on a walk, whereupon the pitching responsibilities devolved upon Matt DiBlasi, who likewise walked Felmy to load the bases.
Luke Tucker, the fourth Florida State pitcher of the inning, took the hill with two out and three on, and he proceeded to sneak the third strike by Jacobs to prevent the Diamond Dogs from padding their one-run lead. Although this turn of events made it appear as though momentum had donned a garnet and gold jersey, the Seminole wind was taken out of the visiting team's sails when three successive batters grounded out to open the proceedings in the sixth frame.
A similar three-up-and-three-down performance by the Bulldogs in the bottom of the inning appeared probable after Olson flied out and Peisel struck out, but Dunn thereafter took first base on a walk and second base on a balk. Unfortunately, Wyatt was unable to take advantage of having a runner in scoring position, as the Georgia left fielder grounded out to conclude the sixth stanza.
Since The Realist insists that the F.S.U. Cowgirls are overrated (and Paul Westerdawg offers you the opportunity to judge for yourself), I figured I should work in a shot of University of Georgia alumna Julie Moran instead. (Also, my Rye sense of humor was growing stale.)
The hurling duties devolved upon Stephen Dodson at the outset of the seventh inning and the Bulldog reliever promptly convinced Anderson to chase the third strike, then persuaded Ryan Strauss to do likewise. For the sake of variety, Dodson elected to dispense with Tony Thomas, Jr., by having him fly out to send the contest to the bottom of the frame.
Side, who had gone three for three with a pair of R.B.I. in his previous at-bats, popped up to start the Bulldogs' batting in the seventh stanza, but Beckham singled through the left side and advanced to second base on a balk. Tucker proceeded to walk Morris intentionally and Felmy inadvertently, but the Seminole reliever pitched his way out of the jam by getting Jacobs to ground into a double play, sending the game to the eighth frame with the score unchanged.
Dodson recorded his third strikeout of the game to start off the eighth inning, then he allowed a base hit to Robinson and was relieved by Rip Warren. Rye strode to the plate and, perhaps aware of the mockery that was sure to greet him here at Dawg Sports if he flied out yet again, the F.S.U. right fielder put a single into center field to put a Seminole in scoring position. As if by osmosis, Rye's habitual flyout found its way to the next Florida State batter, as Posey parked a pitch in the Georgia right fielder's glove. Malone fouled out to leave the baserunners stranded.
Sam "Mayday" Malone was a Red Sox pitcher and a beloved Boston bartender, but he fouled out in a critical situation in the eighth inning against Georgia. Oh, wait . . . that's Ryne Malone, not Sam Malone? My bad. (All right, last time I'm using that joke, I promise.)
When the Diamond Dogs next came up to bat, the Red and Black did little to help themselves, as Olson and Dunn each recorded an out and Peisel profited from Seminole miscues, reaching first and advancing to second on a Florida State error and taking third on a wild pitch. This opened the door for Wyatt, who had gone hitless in three previous at-bats but was determined to rectify the situation.
The Georgia left fielder punched a single through the right side to plate Peisel, adding an unearned run to pad the home team's lead. Although Wyatt proceeded to steal second, he remained there when Side went down swinging.
To no one's surprise, Joshua Fields took the mound for the Bulldogs in the ninth inning. Guinn watched a called third strike pass him by to lead off the Seminoles' final scheduled offensive opportunity, which left the Red and Black in the position of needing to record two outs ere they allowed two runs.
Fields uncharacteristically awarded a base to Anderson by plunking the F.S.U. designated hitter, who advanced as far as third base when pinch hitter Tommy Oravetz knocked a single into right field to even the hitting at seven apiece. In the ensuing at-bat, Thomas traded an out for a run on a sacrifice fly to score Anderson and cut the Bulldogs' lead to a single skinny run.
This brought Josh Spivey to the plate as a pinch hitter, at which point Fields remembered why he is one of five finalists for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award and proceeded to record his 15th save of the season by inducing Spivey to ground out to third base. This gave Georgia the victory, both in the game and in the regional, allowing the Diamond Dogs to advance to the next round of the N.C.A.A. baseball playoffs.
The announcement of the super-regional host sites will be forthcoming once all of the results are in, but, for the moment, let's enjoy the win and look forward to a lengthy run for the Red and Black in the College World Series.