Mississippi State 4, Georgia 2

Where was I before I was so rudely interrupted? Oh, right . . . the Diamond Dogs had a 2-0 lead on Mississippi State on Friday night before a rain delay postponed the first game of the series until Saturday afternoon.

We pick up where we left off, in the top of the second inning. Joseph McCaskill drew a leadoff walk and, after Connor Powers flied out to left field, the M.S.U. left fielder advanced to third on an Andy Rice double. A Mark Goforth groundout scored McCaskill and, after Jeffrey Rea walked, Brandon Turner flied out to conclude the visitors' turn at the plate with Georgia's lead having been halved.

I didn't want to post a picture of Kristin Davis, but I'm two paragraphs into a baseball game report and those are the rules.

The Red and Black had little to show for the home half of the frame, as Joey Lewis's single and Mike Freeman's walk came to naught when Matt Robbins flied out, Travis Parrott struck out, and Ryan Peisel grounded out to strand the baserunners. The visiting Bulldogs, by contrast, went right back on the offensive in the top of the third stanza.

Although Edward Easley led off by flying out, Mitch Moreland dropped a base hit into right field and came around to score on a Brian LaNinfa home run to make it 3-2 for the visiting team. McCaskill and Powers each grounded out to keep Mississippi State from building on its lead. Gordon Beckham registered a single in the bottom of the inning, but the other three Diamond Dogs who came up to bat in the canto all struck out to strand the Georgia shortstop.

The Starkville Bulldogs went three up and three down in the top of the fourth frame and, although Parrott put a single into left field and took second base on a Lewis groundout during the bottom of the inning, his teammates could not bring him home. In the visitors' half of the fifth canto, Mississippi State set about building on its lead.

After Turner flied out, Easley knocked a double into left field and consecutive singles by Moreland and LaNinfa plated the M.S.U. catcher. The next two batters struck out in succession, but Ron Polk's current squad now held a 4-2 lead on his former team. The Red and Black set about answering the Mississippi State surge in the home half of the fifth frame.

M.S.U. shortstop Brandon Turner went hitless in three at-bats, which may explain why he is remembered more for his role on "Northern Exposure" than for his hitting.

Peisel led off with a single and Jonathan Wyatt placed a base hit in center field, as well. With two men on and no one out, however, Beckham and Rich Poythress each struck out and Matt Olson lined out to end the inning. Justin Earls was sent to the mound at the outset of the sixth stanza, relieving starter Stephen Dodson. Counting last night's opening inning, Dodson had crossed paths with 25 batters, allowing three walks, eight hits, and four earned runs.

Earls persuaded each of the first two batters he faced in the top of the canto to chase strike three, then he gave up a walk to Rea and surrendered a single to Jet Butler. Easley thereafter flied out to keep the visitors from lengthening their lead. A base hit by Parrott marked the Classic City Canines' lone achievement during the bottom of the inning.

Earls retired the side in order in the top of the seventh stanza and, after Peisel flied out to lead off the home half of the frame, Wyatt drew a walk and took second on a failed pickoff attempt that ended in an M.S.U. error. Beckham's ensuing groundout put the Georgia center fielder 90 feet from home plate, but Poythress left him there when he went down swinging.

With seven innings in the books, Mississippi State led by one in hits (9-8) and by two in runs (4-2). In the top of the eighth canto, the visiting Bulldogs padded their advantage in one category but not the other: Goforth walked and Rea singled to collect M.S.U.'s 10th hit of the contest, but Powers, Rice, and Butler recorded only outs.

Mississippi State third baseman Connor Powers was held without a hit in four at-bats. Yeah, baby!

With two outs away in the bottom of the eighth, Parrott smacked a single into center field, but the effort once again went to waste when Lewis flied out to end the inning. This brought Steve Esmonde to the mound to replace Earls, who had faced 13 batters, recorded five strikeouts, and given up only two hits, two walks, and no runs.

Esmonde immediately allowed a leadoff single to Easley to get the final frame underway. Moreland sacrificed the runner over to second base, but LaNinfa's popup and Nick Hardy's flyout prevented the Mississippi State catcher from coming around to score. Accordingly, the Diamond Dogs still trailed by two runs when the home team came up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Luke Stewart began the proceedings by flying out and Peisel watched as a called third strike sailed past him. Wyatt flied out to end the game not with a bang, but with a whimper. Following last evening's first-inning outburst, the Diamond Dogs were ineffectual at the plate, with their combined total of hits (9) and walks (2) being offset exactly by their tally of strikeouts (11).

11 is the new L.

Travis Parrott recorded three hits in his four at-bats, but he neither scored nor batted in a run. Leadoff hitter Ryan Peisel, cleanup hitter Rich Poythress, and designated hitter Matt Robbins collectively went one for 13 with no runs and only one R.B.I. Stephen Dodson did not pitch poorly, the Georgia relievers both pitched well, the visiting team was held scoreless in five of the last six innings, and the Red and Black committed no errors in the field, but a lack of offensive punch kept the home team from claiming victory in a game in which it took, but failed to hold, an early lead.

(Note: Saturday's regularly-scheduled baseball outing was postponed due to rain. Consequently, Sunday afternoon will feature a doubleheader between the two sets of Bulldogs. In accordance with a conference rule, each of tomorrow afternoon's contests will last seven innings.)

Go 'Dawgs!

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