Following Friday's huge win over Auburn, the Diamond Dogs came into Foley Field on Saturday afternoon hoping to claim consecutive victories for the first time since late February. Trevor Holder drew the pitching assignment and his initial efforts appeared promising, as he struck out Bruce Edwards and Luke Greinke to begin the first inning.
Holder had a bit more trouble with Josh Donaldson, however, as the Auburn third baseman punched a single into center field, stole second, and scored an unearned run on an error in the outfield when Travis Parrott dropped a fly ball. The top of the frame concluded with the Plainsmen holding a 1-0 lead and no Bulldog batter reached base in the home team's turn at the plate.
The Tigers went right back on the offensive at the start of the second stanza, when Andy Bennett drew a base on balls and Ross Smith singled to center field. Fortunately, Holder was able to coax Dustin Spruill and Eric Skinner into flying out, after which Edwards grounded out to strand the Tiger first baseman in scoring position.
Although Matt Olson led off the bottom half of the frame by lining out, Joey Lewis walked in the next at-bat. Matt Cerione hit into a fielder's choice, but Luke Stewart drew a base on balls to move the Bulldog designated hitter to second. Parrott's subsequent single loaded the bases, enabling a Mike Freeman single to plate the tying run before Jonathan Wyatt ended the inning by taking a called third strike.
Matt Cerione went two for four and scored a run. His father, Don Vito Cerione, was well pleased.
The top of the third stanza consisted only of a Greinke flyout, a Donaldson groundout, and a Ben Jones strikeout, after which the Diamond Dogs returned to the plate. While the first two Georgia batters grounded out, Olson put one over the left field wall for his first home run of the season. Although such additional activity as a Lewis single, a Cerione double, and a Stewart walk came to naught, the third stanza concluded with the Red and Black in the lead.
The fourth frame began with Robert Brooks being hit by a pitch, although the Auburn second baseman's time on the basepaths was short-lived, as he was caught stealing before Bennett popped up to record the second out of the inning. After that, matters got a bit dicey, as Smith knocked a double into left field and Spruill brought him home with a base hit before Skinner flied out to conclude the top of the inning with the score snarled at a pair of runs apiece.
The bottom of the fourth frame passed swiftly, as each of the first three Bulldogs to stand in the batter's box flied out in succession. Neither team put a man aboard in the fifth inning and the sixth stanza saw only a base hit by Bennett in the top of the frame and a single by Stewart in the bottom of the inning.
At the start of the seventh inning, Holder was relieved after facing 25 batters, recording five strikeouts, giving up five hits, and allowing one earned run. On came Alex McRee, who surrendered a base on balls to Edwards but otherwise induced each Auburn batter he faced to ground out to short. The Diamond Dogs failed to break the deadlock in the bottom of the frame, although Gordon Beckham produced some excitement when he attempted to turn a double into a triple and failed to reach third base ahead of the throw.
Stephen Dodson took the mound in the top of the eighth inning and, although the Georgia reliever was effective, he had to contend with a baserunner for whom he was not to blame when Donaldson reached on an error. A Jones sacrifice and a Brooks flyout moved the Tiger third baseman over two more bases, but Bennett flied out to strand him there.
A leadoff single by Olson in the bottom of the eighth was invalidated when Lewis grounded into a double play and a base hit by Cerione went for naught when Stewart watched the third strike sail by him. The top of the ninth was utterly uneventful, as Smith, Spruill, and Skinner all grounded out to the middle infielders.
Thus it all came down to the bottom of the ninth inning. Parrott opened the proceedings with a base hit and Freeman got aboard by hitting into a fielder's choice that saw the lead runner thrown out at second base. After Wyatt flied out, Ryan Peisel was plunked and Beckham drew a walk to load the bases for Olson.
This time, the Georgia right fielder was not content to record the game-winning R.B.I. by drawing a walk. This time, he took matters into his own hands and belted a base hit to left field, bringing home the run that concluded the contest in the Classic City Canines' favor.
Matt Olson, king of Ithaca, husband of Penelope, father of Telemachus, hero of Homer's Odyssey. (Photograph from Robert Newcomb.)
Once again, the Diamond Dogs' performance fell well short of perfection. The Red and Black committed a pair of errors and the top of the order (Jonathan Wyatt, Ryan Peisel, and Gordon Beckham) went one for 13 at the plate, neither batting in nor scoring so much as a single run between them. In Saturday's outing, Bulldog batters struck out more times (6) than they walked (4).
Nevertheless, the Classic City Canines outhit the opposition, 11-5, and got solid production from the bottom six batters in the order. Collectively, Matt Olson, Joey Lewis, Matt Cerione, Luke Stewart, Travis Parrott, and Mike Freeman were 10 for 22 with three R.B.I. and a trio of runs.
The Georgia hurlers allowed only one earned run in nine frames, holding the Plainsmen scoreless in the last five innings and allowing only one hit after the fourth stanza. The first five hitters in the Auburn lineup (Bruce Edwards, Luke Greinke, Josh Donaldson, Ben Jones, and Robert Brooks) cumulatively amassed only one hit in 17 at-bats and failed to bat in so much as a single run.
The Diamond Dogs still are well shy of playing .500 ball, but their 2-0 record in conference play and their newfound ability to win rather than lose one-run games offers cause for hope, if not (yet) faith. A series sweep on Sunday would go a long way toward convincing me that I will have occasion to write future postgame reports in dactylic hexameter.