Granted, it was just Furman. Although they swept Georgia Southern over the weekend, the Paladins began the week sporting an 8-14 ledger that was even worse than the Diamond Dogs' 9-14 record. Still, the Red and Black needed a win and, on Wednesday night, they got it in a big way.
Dean Weaver began the first inning by retiring the initial three batters he faced, thereby bringing the home team to the plate in short order. Jonathan Wyatt led off by flying out, but Ryan Peisel and Gordon Beckham registered a single and a double, respectively. Matt Olson followed that up by swinging at strike three, setting the stage for Rich Poythress's ensuing double to score a pair of runs.
With a few minor modifications, Gary Wright could provide a fitting musical tribute to Georgia pitcher Dean Weaver, who threw three scoreless innings in which he struck out three, walked one, and gave up no hits.
When Luke Stewart reached on an error, the Georgia first baseman came around to score, as well. Although Joey Lewis grounded out in the next at-bat, the Red and Black had claimed a 3-0 advantage. Furman attempted to get something going in the top of the second stanza, which opened with a Tony Maccani walk, but his fellow Paladins were unable to get him farther than second base.
The Diamond Dogs picked up where they left off in the bottom of the frame, in which a Matt Cerione flyout preceded three straight singles that generated one run and left two men on for Beckham. The Bulldog shortstop took full advantage of the situation, belting one out in center field to make the score 7-0. Poythress added a cosmetic single before the end of the inning.
No Paladin reached base in the top of the third inning and the lone Bulldog baserunner in the bottom of the frame failed to score. The fourth stanza began with a Georgia pitching change, as Alex McRee succeeded Weaver on the hill and promptly pitched himself into a jam.
The first two Furman batters walked and the third was hit by a pitch. With the bases loaded, Will Stembridge grounded into the double play that scored one run but allowed McRee to get out of the inning on a flyout from Joe Daysh.
Paladin first baseman Joe Daysh went hitless in three at-bats, which is too bad, because I hear Daysh is a real burner on the basepaths.
Only a base on balls to Olson kept the bottom of the inning from being a series of flyouts by the home team and all the excitement in the top of the fifth frame was confined to a base hit by Nicholas Karow. In the second half of the stanza, however, the Red and Black went back on the offensive.
Stewart and Lewis started things off with back-to-back base hits. Cerione reached on a fielder's choice, after which Mike Freeman singled to score the Georgia designated hitter. A base hit by Wyatt brought the Bulldog left fielder home and Peisel drew a base on balls to set the stage for Beckham's grand slam. The Red and Black still were not done, however, as an Olson triple and a Poythress single added the inning's seventh run.
A Paladin pitching change prevented additional bloodletting, but the Bulldogs had built up a 14-1 advantage to which the visiting team had no rejoinder, managing only a Bobby Hubbard single in the top of the sixth stanza. Georgia tacked on a couple of hits, but no additional runs, in the home half of the frame.
The top of the seventh inning featured much movement, as substitutions were made both in the field and in the batting order, but a base hit and a walk came to naught for Furman, allowing the Classic City Canines to go back on the offensive. Travis Parrott led off the bottom of the inning with a base hit and, after Clayton Cain went down swinging, Matt Robbins was plunked to put a second man aboard. Jake Crane responded with a three-run shot to make it 17-1.
Georgia catcher Jake Crane went one for one with a home run and three R.B.I., which ain't bad for a long-necked bird.
At the outset of the eighth frame, the Diamond Dogs sent Trevor Holder to the mound. Holder represented the sixth Red and Black hurler of the night, as every reliever who came after Weaver had remained in the game for a single stanza. Although Marcus Rose reached on an error and Hubbard knocked a base hit into right field to advance the runner, Holder retired the next three batters to bring the Bulldogs back up to the plate.
Peisel led off the bottom of the inning with a base hit to right field, but Beckham grounded into a double play in the next at-bat to abbreviate the remainder of the frame. This brought Joshua Fields to the mound to close out a contest in which his six pitching predecessors had allowed one run on four hits, striking out nine while walking four.
The Red and Black finished the game credited with 20 hits, which were collected by virtue of blistering days by Gordon Beckham (three for six, seven R.B.I., three runs), Mike Freeman (two for two, one R.B.I., two runs), Ryan Peisel (four for five, one R.B.I., three runs), Rich Poythress (three for four, three R.B.I., one run), and Jonathan Wyatt (two for four, one R.B.I., two runs).
Granted, it was only Furman, so we shouldn't read too much into it, but at least Wednesday evening's laugher will provide a confidence boost heading into the Diamond Dogs' weekend showdown with Florida.