Following Friday night's disastrous extra-inning meltdown, the Diamond Dogs retook the field on Saturday evening to square off with the selfsame Kentucky squad that had outdueled them the day before. Andrew Albers was on the mound for the Wildcats and he was effective in the first frame, collecting groundouts from Ryan Peisel, Jonathan Wyatt, and Gordon Beckham in succession to retire the side in the top of the initial inning.
This brought Nathan Moreau to the hill for the home half of the opening canto and the Bulldog hurler began by coaxing a groundout from Mike Brown on an 0-2 pitch. Matters thereafter took a turn, however, as Keenan Wiley recorded the first hit of the game and Sawyer Carroll returned the first pitch he saw up the middle for the contest's second single.
Since that whole Raquel Welch episode ended so poorly, I'm shifting gears and getting back to the fundamentals.
Fortunately, after Sean Coughlin hit into the fielder's choice that put runners at the corners with two outs, Brian Spear went down swinging to leave Wiley at third base and bring Rich Poythress to the plate. The Georgia first baseman got the second stanza underway by belting a base hit through the left side, but the next two Bulldog batters recorded outs without advancing the baserunner.
Joey Lewis then put a first-pitch double into right center field. Poythress rounded third and tried for home, but he was cut down at the plate, preserving the scoreless tie. Following a Ryan Wilkes groundout to begin the bottom of the frame, Tyler Howe and Matt McKinney belted out back-to-back base hits. These went to waste, though, when Antone DeJesus lined into a double play.
Travis Parrott turned the first pitch of the third inning into a base hit, but, after Mike Freeman grounded out to move the Georgia left fielder over to second, the next two Diamond Dogs went down swinging to strand him there. The Wildcats went three up and three down in the bottom of the stanza.
Beckham worked the count full before drawing a leadoff walk in the top of the fourth frame and he stole second base after Poythress popped up to record the first out of the inning. Matt Olson's ensuing flyout moved the Red and Black shortstop over to third, but Matt Robbins grounded out to strand him 90 feet away from breaking the deadlock.
Georgia designated hitter Matt Robbins failed to reach first base in three at-bats, which would have embarrassed his uncle, Marty, had he been around to see it.
The first two Kentucky batters in the home half of the canto lined out, but Wilkes thereafter drew a base on balls and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After Howe was plunked to put two men aboard, McKinney flied out to end the Wildcats' turn at the plate.
Finally, in the fifth frame, the Diamond Dogs broke the tie. Lewis got things going with a base hit to right center field. Parrott put down a sacrifice bunt to move the Georgia catcher to second and Freeman grounded out to advance him to third. The first pitch to Peisel went into center field for a run-scoring single to give the Red and Black a 1-0 advantage.
The Classic City Canines were not yet done, though. After Wyatt dropped a base hit of his own into left field, Beckham blasted the home run that made the score 4-0. Poythress flied out to conclude the inning. Although the Wildcats attempted to answer with consecutive two-out singles by Wiley and Carroll, Coughlin's subsequent flyout squelched the threat in the bottom of the frame.
A base hit by Lewis was all the Red and Black had to show for the top of the sixth stanza, but Spear began the home half of the canto by drawing a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Wilkes likewise took Moreau to a full count and the Kentucky shortstop put the payoff pitch through the right side for the base hit that chased the Georgia starter from the mound after five innings' worth of work, during which Moreau faced 24 batters and surrendered seven hits.
After leaving the game, the Diamond Dogs' starting pitcher reportedly returned to an isolated island to continue some ongoing experiments, but details were sketchy.
Steve Esmonde succeeded him on the hill and got Howe to ground out, but, when Poythress attempted to turn two on the play, a throwing error allowed the Wildcat second baseman to score an unearned run. McKinney then doubled down the left field line to even the hits at eight apiece and cut the Diamond Dogs' lead in half.
After DeJesus popped up, Brown punched a base hit through the left side to plate another run. Wiley finally ended the home team's turn at the plate by striking out, but Georgia's commanding lead had been whittled down to a shaky 4-3 advantage.
Although Freeman opened the seventh inning by recording an out, Peisel undertook to do something about the Red and Black's situation, dropping a single into left center field. Wyatt grounded out to move the Georgia third baseman into scoring position, after which Albers intentionally walked Beckham to get to Poythress. This brought the Kentucky starter's evening to a close after he had allowed nine hits to 30 batters, walking two and striking out three.
Duran Ferguson was brought in to face the Bulldog first baseman and he got ahead of Poythress before giving up a single to left center field on an 0-2 pitch. Peisel came around to score, extending the visitors' lead to 5-3. When Olson walked to load the bases, Ferguson was sent to the showers and the hurling duties fell to James Paxton, who persuaded Luke Stewart to ground out and strand the runners.
U.K. reliever Duran Ferguson faced two batters, walking one, conceding a hit to the other, and failing once again to equal the success he enjoyed in the mid-'80s with such hits as "Rio" and "Hungry Like the Wolf."
The bottom of the seventh frame saw Alex McRee on the mound for the Classic City Canines and he convinced the Wildcats to line out, foul out, and fly out in succession to bring the Diamond Dogs back up to the plate. Lewis led off the eighth inning by turning Paxton's first pitch into a double.
Parrott walked to produce a second Georgia baserunner and Freeman moved them both over with a sacrifice bunt. A pitching change followed, as Brock Baber was called upon to face Peisel. The Red and Black third baseman put Baber's second pitch out of the park, bringing three runs home and producing another switch on the mound.
This time, Troy Ragle was given the nod and he responded by getting Wyatt to line out, although he allowed Beckham to draw his third walk of the game in the next at-bat. Ragle's next four pitches all were balls, so Poythress walked, as well. Olson took advantage of the situation thus presented him, belting a base hit to left field that scored the Georgia shortstop.
Stewart proceeded to hit into a fielder's choice, but the Wildcats came up to bat in the bottom of the eighth trailing by a 9-3 margin and the first two Kentucky batters promptly recorded a pair of outs. A ground-rule double by McKinney and a four-pitch walk by DeJesus set the stage for a possible rally by the home team, but McRee succeeded in getting Brown to line out and prevent any damage from being done.
What can Brown do for you? In Kentucky's case, he can go one for five from the leadoff spot.
Tyler Henry became the sixth home team hurler at the outset of the ninth stanza and Lewis put his first pitch into left field for a single. Blake Cannady came on as a pinch runner and advanced to second on a Parrott groundout, but the next two Bulldog batters recorded outs. The bottom of the final inning produced no excitement, as Wiley struck out, Carroll grounded out, and Coughlin lined out to conclude the much-needed Georgia victory.
Saturday evening's contest contained all the elements Bulldog Nation is used to seeing in a baseball game. In eight out of nine innings, a team was held scoreless and the offensively anemic squad proved unable to push runs across the plate, chalking up 10 hits and drawing a trio of walks yet succeeding in scoring only three runs. Pitching meltdowns produced outbursts of scoring, as the hurlers allowed four runs in an inning on two separate occasions. The leadoff hitter and the designated hitter combined to go one for 10 with only one R.B.I.
The difference, of course, was that, this time, Kentucky was the team that played the way we are used to seeing Georgia play. The Red and Black, on the other hand, finally put it all together. Nathan Moreau gave the Classic City Canines five decent innings, surrendering seven hits and two earned runs. The relievers combined to go four frames while allowing only three hits and just one run.
When a Georgia error allowed the Wildcats to have a big inning, the Diamond Dogs responded, outscoring the opposition 5-0 in the final three innings on the strength of impressive performances by Gordon Beckham (1 for 2, 2 runs, 3 R.B.I.), Joey Lewis (5 for 5, 2 runs), Ryan Peisel (3 for 6, 3 runs, 4 R.B.I.), and Rich Poythress (2 for 4, 1 R.B.I.). The Red and Black turned 14 hits and six walks into nine runs, setting up a series-clinching contest between the 'Cats and the 'Dawgs on Sunday afternoon.