The Diamond Dogs came into last night's game sporting a four-game losing streak that included a three-game sweep by the Trojans in Georgia's weekend series with Southern California and a loss at home to Kennesaw State. The Red and Black got back on track in a big way with a 12-1 victory over Gardner-Webb in the first game of the set. On Saturday afternoon, the Classic City Canines took the field hoping to win back-to-back outings for just the third time this season.
Trevor Holder got the start against the Runnin' Bulldogs of Boiling Springs, N.C., and, although the Georgia pitcher began by getting Jamaal Kinard to hit into what ought to have been an out, an error allowed the G.W.U. right fielder to reach first base. To add insult to injury, Kinard proceeded to steal second.
This did not sit well with Holder, who, despite surrendering a subsequent walk to Jeremiah Lokken, managed to get Josh Drewery to strike out, Justin Loyd to pop up, and Daniel Cooke to line out to conclude a scoreless opening stanza. The home team did nothing to break the deadlock in the bottom of the frame, as Jonathan Wyatt, Ryan Peisel, and Gordon Beckham all grounded out in succession.
The second inning got underway with a Matt Rizzuto flyout and a Shea Harris strikeout, but Brock Miller proved pesky, both at the plate and on the basepaths. The Gardner-Webb left fielder punched a base hit into right field and stole a couple of bases, making his way to third before Holder persuaded Jonathan Ahearn to ground out to short to conclude the visiting Bulldogs' turn at bat. The Georgia offense again proved ineffectual in the home half of the inning, when a flyout by Joey Lewis and groundouts by Matt Olson and Luke Stewart were all the Red and Black had to show for their efforts.
The Runnin' Bulldogs began to show some spunk in the top of the third inning. After Kinard looked on as a called third strike sailed by, Drewery and Lokken put successive singles into the outfield. Fortunately, the G.W.U. shortstop was caught stealing and Loyd grounded out, so the visiting team's offensive outburst failed to push a run across home plate.
Gardner-Webb third baseman Justin Loyd went one for seven with two R.B.I. When asked what he thought of Justin's performance, his uncle, Christopher, described it as "okey-doke!"
In the bottom of the frame, starting pitcher Ben Campbell's mastery of the host squad continued, as Matt Robbins flied out, Travis Parrott grounded out, and Miles Starr struck out to keep the Red and Black hitless after one full trip through the lineup. While Holder had given up three hits in as many innings, Campbell had retired all nine of the batters he had faced and allowed only two pitches to make it out of the infield.
Cooke kicked off the fourth frame by parking a single in center field and stealing second base once he was aboard. With a man in scoring position and no one out, Rizzuto went down swinging and failed to advance the runner. When Harris thereafter flied out to left field, the Gardner-Webb designated hitter felt the need to take matters into his own hands, whereupon he stole third base.
As it turned out, he needn't have bothered; Miller knocked a triple into center field, easily scoring Cooke and putting the G.W.U. left fielder 90 feet away from adding a second run. Rather than allow that to happen, Holder coaxed Ahearn into grounding out to short to keep the Runnin' Bulldogs from building on their newfound advantage.
Campbell preserved his no-hitter through the end of four innings, but he lost the perfect game. Wyatt led off by flying out and Peisel struck out swinging, but Beckham drew the walk that gave the Diamond Dogs their first baserunner before Lewis flied out to right field.
The fifth stanza began with Kinard collecting the sixth Gardner-Webb hit of the contest, although this came to naught when the G.W.U. right fielder was caught in a rundown and the next two Runnin' Bulldog batters flied out to keep the margin at 1-0 at the putative halfway point. The bottom of the inning went swiftly, consisting only of a strikeout by Olson and groundouts by Stewart and Robbins. After five frames, Campbell had allowed no hits, given up one walk, struck out three, and gotten eight of the 16 batters he had faced to ground out to the infielders.
Ben Campbell's pitching performance on Saturday was so superb that Andy Warhol paid tribute to him by painting his portrait.
Loyd flied out to begin the sixth inning, then Cooke struck out swinging to record the second out of the top of the frame. When Rizzuto registered the seventh Gardner-Webb hit of the afternoon, though, Holder was given the hook and replaced on the mound by Stephen Dodson, who got Harris to ground out to end the inning.
The Diamond Dogs began to break through in the bottom of the sixth stanza. Parrott recorded the first Georgia hit of the day, putting a single into center field. Losing the no-hitter apparently rattled Campbell, as an error by the pitcher allowed the Red and Black left fielder to advance to second base, giving the home team by far its best scoring opportunity of the day.
The Classic City Canines proceeded to squander this chance. Dave Perno sensibly elected to trade an out for a base, calling upon Starr to lay down the sacrifice bunt that moved Parrott over to third. Wyatt then swung at and missed strike three and Peisel popped up, leaving Georgia's best scoring threat stranded at third base. Anxious to get his teammates back up to bat, Dodson made short work of G.W.U. in the top of the seventh frame, hauling in the popup resulting from Miller's ill-executed bunt attempt before striking out Ahearn and Kinard.
Campbell returned to the mound and the home team returned to form; Beckham led off the bottom of the inning by flying out, Lewis followed up by striking out, and Olson put the ball into play in the infield but failed to leg out the throw. The Runnin' Bulldogs therefore came to bat in the top of the eighth inning with a reasonable expectation of victory and the visitors went to work, intent on adding an insurance run.
Drewery led off with a single. Lokken was thrown out at first, but he succeeded in moving the Gardner-Webb shortstop to second base. Loyd followed that up with a base hit of his own and, although the G.W.U. third baseman was thrown out at second, he was credited with the R.B.I. that scored Drewery and gave the Runnin' Bulldogs a 2-0 lead. Despite Cooke's subsequent single, a groundout by Rizzuto ended the top of the frame.
"Hello! My name is Simon! Would you like to see my Drewery?"
The home half of the eighth inning began in typical fashion, as Stewart hit a ground ball to record the first out. Robbins, however, put a double into left field, then, after Parrott flied out, Rich Poythress came in as a pinch hitter and reached on an error. The Georgia designated hitter scored an unearned run and, although Wyatt struck out swinging to end the inning, the Diamond Dogs had halved the Gardner-Webb lead.
Miller got on board by drawing a walk in the top of the ninth and the G.W.U. left fielder stole second base, but his teammates were unable to advance him ere the third out was recorded, so the Red and Black returned to the batter's box hoping to overcome a one-run deficit. Campbell remained in the game to finish what he had started and he induced a pair of flyouts from Peisel and Beckham to start the inning.
Needing just one out to claim the complete game victory, Campbell gave up a solo home run to Lewis, which tied the game. When Olson flied out to left field in the next at-bat, the score was snarled at two runs apiece, necessitating extra innings to settle the outcome.
There commenced a war of attrition. Joshua Fields took the hill to pitch the top of the 10th and he retired the side in succession. When Campbell walked the first batter he faced in the bottom of the inning, Matt Tafazzoli succeeded Campbell on the mound. The Gardner-Webb starter had gone nine innings, facing 33 batters and surrendering three hits and one earned run while striking out six and walking two.
Blake Cannady, who had replaced Stewart on the basepaths as a pinch runner, was caught stealing at second and both Robbins and Parrott flied out to take the game to the 11th. In the top of the second bonus canto, Fields sat down three successive batters on a flyout, a groundout, and a strikeout. A pair of singles in the bottom of the inning failed to push a run across, necessitating a 12th stanza.
In an extra-inning baseball game, twelve is the new nine.
Miller walked to open the top of the inning and an Ahearn bunt put the Gardner-Webb left fielder in scoring position, but the Runnin' Bulldogs were unable to bring him home. A base hit by Robbins was all the Diamond Dogs had to show for the bottom of the 12th.
A scoreless 13th featured only a walk and a stolen base in the top of the inning and a base hit and a walk in the bottom of the frame. Ryan Woolley pitched the top of the 14th, in which no Runnin' Bulldog reached base. Unfortunately, no Diamond Dog made it as far as first in the bottom of the inning, either.
Drewery led off the 15th frame with a base on balls and Jon Crockett, the pinch runner who replaced him at first, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Lokken. Loyd and Cooke grounded out to prevent the G.W.U. baserunner from scoring. The Red and Black were hitless in the home half of the 15th, as well.
Rizzuto was hit by a pitch at the outset of the 16th stanza and he took second base on a sacrifice bunt, but, once again, Gardner-Webb failed to advance its second baseman past that point. After Peisel's leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning was nullified when Beckham hit into a double play, the visiting Bulldogs decided to take care of business in what was to be the longest baseball game in University of Georgia history.
Kinard led off with a base on balls in the top of the 17th, after which Tyler Johnson laid down an infield single. A Lokken double gave the Runnin' Bulldogs the lead and a squeeze bunt by Loyd made the advantage 4-2. After Cooke grounded out, Rizzuto's two-run homer put the game out of reach for the home team, handing the Red and Black their fifth loss in a six-game span after the bottom of the inning consisted of an Olson strikeout, a Jake Crane flyout, and a Matt Cerione groundout.
In an effort to ameliorate the ill effects of this crummy outcome, I have included an entirely superfluous photograph of Kristin Davis.
Coach Perno neither made excuses nor minced words. He did not blame the loss on the inexperience of his younger players; rather, he laid the defeat at the feet of Jonathan Wyatt, Gordon Beckham, and Matt Olson, who went without a hit in 19 combined at-bats. Said Coach Perno:
In nine losses this season, Georgia has fallen by margins of one run three times, two runs twice, four runs thrice, and five runs once. On Saturday afternoon, the visiting Bulldogs collected twice as many hits (14) as the hometown Bulldogs . . . and the Red and Black's seven hits came over the course of 56 at-bats. The Classic City Canines were held scoreless in 15 of 17 innings today.
Overall, the Diamond Dogs were fairly solid on the mound and in the field. Georgia's first three pitchers combined to hurl 13 innings in which they struck out 13 batters and limited the opposition to two earned runs. Over the course of the contest, Gardner-Webb left 13 men on base.
When a team can't find a way to score, though, that team isn't going to win very many ballgames. Apart from Ryan Peisel (2 for 6) and Matt Robbins (2 for 5), the Red and Black collectively batted three for 45. This talented team is sinking in the standings because its upperclassmen are failing to provide crucial leadership in clutch situations. Until they step up to the plate, both literally and figuratively, Georgia fans are destined to be disappointed in a series of maddeningly close games.