When hosting No. 1 Vanderbilt for a three-game series this weekend, the Red and Black let one get away on Friday night before bouncing back to claim victory on Saturday afternoon by the selfsame 7-0 final margin by which the Georgia football team defeated the Music City Sailors in Vince Dooley's rookie season in 1964. Consequently, for the fifth straight weekend, the Diamond Dogs took the field on Sunday afternoon needing a win to clinch the series . . . and hoping the Commodores would be easy like Sunday morning.
Georgia even had an outside chance of having something meaningful for which to play on Sunday. The field for the S.E.C. baseball tournament consists of the league's top eight teams. After Saturday's victory, the Red and Black found themselves in 11th place with an 8-15 record, trailed only by Auburn (7-16). However, with seven conference games remaining, the Classic City Canines entered this afternoon's contest with at least the possibility of overtaking Alabama (10-13), Kentucky (10-12-1), Louisiana State (10-12-1), and Tennessee (10-11) for the final postseason seed.
Kristin Davis intently followed this weekend's S.E.C. baseball action, as she was well aware of the potential postseason ramifications for the Diamond Dogs.
Such speculative considerations aside, though, the home team had a game to play and Jason Leaver was on the mound for the Red and Black in the top of the opening inning. The sophomore southpaw, who arrived at the ballpark with a 1-1 record and a 4.83 E.R.A., began the first frame by persuading David Macias to fly out to right field. Although Alex Feinberg belted out a base hit in the next at-bat, Leaver retired Dominic de la Osa and Pedro Alvarez on consecutive popups to bring the Bulldogs up to bat.
The Diamond Dogs enjoyed rather more success in the bottom of the canto. Ryan Peisel and Jonathan Wyatt got the proceedings underway with back-to-back base hits and Gordon Beckham flied out to advance the Georgia third baseman to his accustomed position. Rich Poythress brought two runs home with a double to left field and, although groundouts by Matt Olson and Matt Robbins stranded the Bulldog first baseman 90 feet from home plate, the Red and Black still had taken a 2-0 lead.
The Commodores set about erasing that deficit in the top of the second stanza. Ryan Flaherty led off with a base hit and Matt Meingasner brought the Vanderbilt shortstop home with a triple to left field. Parker Hanks's sacrifice fly plated another run and, just like that, the game was all even at two runs, three hits, and no errors apiece.
A Shea Robin lineout and a Brad French flyout brought the visitors' turn at the plate to a close, but Vandy starting pitcher Cody Crowell retired the side on a Joey Lewis flyout, a Travis Parrott strikeout, and a Mike Freeman groundout in the bottom of the inning. This brought the Commodores back up to bat in short order and the Music City Sailors wasted no time at the outset of the third canto, commencing with a base hit by Macias.
Vanderbilt catcher Shea Robin went two for four and batted in a pair of runs on Sunday, which must have made Batman very proud of his old chum.
When Feinberg put a two-run shot out to center field, Leaver's day was done. The Georgia starter had faced 11 batters, surrendered five hits, and given up four earned runs. Alex McRee took over in his stead and the new Bulldog hurler promptly surrendered a home run to de la Osa. The next three batters produced a lineout and a pair of groundouts, but the Commodores had gone on top by a 5-2 margin.
The Classic City Canines declined to take this lying down, however. Peisel drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning and Wyatt moved him over to third with a double. Beckham popped up, but, when Poythress reached on an error, the Georgia third baseman scored. Olson's ensuing double plated another run and chased Crowell from the mound.
The Vanderbilt starter had lasted for 14 batters, allowing five hits and four earned runs. He was succeeded on the hill by Ty Davis, who struck out Lewis after Robbins reached on an error. When Parrott flied out to end the inning, the home team trailed by one in both runs (5-4) and hits (6-5).
Those ratios did not remain the same for long. After the top of the fourth frame got underway with a Hanks strikeout, Robin followed that up with a base hit to center field. French and Macias each drew bases on balls, setting the stage for a Feinberg single that scored a pair of runs and brought Dean Weaver on to pitch for the home team. The Georgia reliever got the next two Music City Sailors to fly out, but the visitors had extended their advantage to 7-4.
The Diamond Dogs went three up and three down in the bottom of the inning, bringing Vandy swiftly back up to the plate. The fifth frame commenced with successive singles by Flaherty and Meingasner. Hanks sacrificed the runners over to enable Robin to score two runs with a base hit to right field. The Commodore catcher moved into scoring position on a French single and, after Macias popped up, Feinberg's base hit to left field scored Robin.
The Vanderbilt first baseman came home on the base hit by de la Osa that marked the end of Weaver's stay in the game. The third Georgia pitcher of the afternoon had faced 10 batters, allowed six hits, surrendered four earned runs, and worsened a situation that had begun to get out of hand already when McRee gave up three runs on three hits.
Justin Earls closed out the inning by getting Alvarez to fly out to right field. In the home half of the frame, Olson reached on an error and stole second base, but his teammates registered nothing but outs. Neither side produced a baserunner in the sixth stanza, but Vanderbilt came back strong in the top of the seventh frame. After French led off by striking out, Macias drew a walk and promptly came around to score when Feinberg dropped a double into center field.
A de la Osa single plated Feinberg and an Alvarez single moved the Commodore right fielder into scoring position. Flaherty doubled to bring home two more runs and bring about another Red and Black pitching change. The call went to Ryan Woolley this time and the latest Diamond Dog reliever induced Ryan Davis to ground out and end the inning with the home team trailing by a 15-4 margin.
No Bulldog made it as far as first base in the bottom of the canto and Vanderbilt continued its barrage in the opening half of the eighth inning, when Jonathan White, Carter Hawkins, and French began the visitors' turn at bat with three straight singles to load the bases. Astonishingly, Woolley held the line, getting a popup from Macias, a strikeout from Brian Harris, and a popup from de la Osa to prevent the blowout from getting any farther out of hand.
The Red and Black succeeded in producing only a flyout, a groundout, and a strikeout in the bottom of the frame, yet still there was no letup from the visitors in the top of the ninth inning. Alvarez led off with a single and, after Flaherty flied out, Davis---Ryan, not Ty---doubled to left field, putting two runners in scoring position.
Steve Esmonde was called upon to preserve whatever shred of Diamond Dog dignity yet remained and he acquitted himself well, obtaining the strikeout and the groundout that prevented Vanderbilt's 15-4 lead in runs and 23-5 edge in hits from getting any worse. Davis---Ty, not Ryan---returned to the mound in the bottom of the inning, convincing Jake Crane to pop up and persuading Parrott to ground out to leave the Classic City Canines with only one chance left.
Freeman had the dubious distinction of being the 22nd batter faced by Davis and his flyout kept the Commodore reliever perfect. In nearly seven innings' worth of work, Ty Davis had tallied four strikeouts but had not given up a run, a walk, or a hit. His cause certainly was not harmed by the performance at the plate of such teammates as Dominic de la Osa (3 for 6, 2 runs, 3 R.B.I.), Alex Feinberg (5 for 5, 2 runs, 6 R.B.I.), Ryan Flaherty (3 for 6, 2 runs, 2 R.B.I.), Brad French (2 for 4, 2 runs), Matt Meingasner (2 for 4, 2 runs, 1 R.B.I.), and Shea Robin (2 for 4, 2 runs, 2 R.B.I.).
Oh, for crying out loud, we let the French bat .500 against us? Wait a minute . . . that's Brad French! O.K., but still. . . .
The Red and Black, on the other hand, got off to a hot start but, otherwise, they were awful in every way. Despite being down by only one run after three frames, the Classic City Canines were unable to avoid being run out of their own building by a visiting team that committed three errors to Georgia's none.
Jonathan Wyatt was the only Diamond Dog to record more than one hit and players for the home team not named Rich Poythress batted in only one run between them. The first four Georgia pitchers gave up four, three, four, and four earned runs, respectively. The first five Red and Black hurlers surrendered five, three, six, four, and five hits, respectively.
This loss was a total team effort, as every player contributed his fair share to the Diamond Dogs' defeat. The slim postseason prospects alluded to at the outset of this report stand revealed, in the aftermath of this embarrassing outcome, as a pipe dream. The Red and Black have not won a series on Sunday all season long and their one win over the top team in the land was a random fluke, not a harbinger of good things to come in a season that is circling the drain.