The Diamond Dogs began conference play on Friday night, traveling to Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs came into the game sporting an 11-3 record and, unfortunately, they gave the Classic City Canines more than they could handle.
A Michael Demperio walk and a Gordon Beckham single in successive Georgia at-bats failed to produce a run in the top of the first inning, which concluded with consecutive flyouts to strand two. Likewise, a Logan Forsythe double did nothing meaningful to advance the home team's cause in the bottom of the canto, as every other Razorback produced a groundout.
A Ben Tschepikow single marked the only hit registered by either team in the second stanza and each team could lay claim to a walk, but nothing else, in the third frame. Although Rich Poythress led off the top of the fourth inning with a base hit, a Joey Lewis strikeout and a Matt Olson double play ball prevented the Georgia first baseman from coming around to score. Arkansas had only a Jacob House double to show for the home half of the inning.
The fireworks finally began in the fifth canto. After the first two Bulldog batters struck out, Matt Cerione doubled to center field and Ryan Peisel followed that up with a double of his own to give the Red and Black a 1-0 lead. A Demperio bunt single advanced Peisel to third, but a flyout by Beckham ended the visitors' turn at the plate.
On Friday night, Arkansas left fielder Jacob House was two for four at the plate and he successfully diagnosed and treated a tricky case of schistosomiasis while berating residents and popping pills.
Ryan Cisterna led off the bottom of the frame with the home run to left field that tied the game. The next two Razorbacks registered outs before Brett Eibner added a solo shot of his own to give Arkansas a 2-1 advantage. A Forsythe single and an Andy Wilkins walk went for naught when Aaron Murphree grounded out to keep the Hogs' lead at a lone run.
The game remained interesting in the sixth stanza. Poythress drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on an Olson groundout following Lewis's intervening flyout. This produced the game's first pitching change, as the Razorbacks' Cliff Springston was lifted after going five innings, in which he faced 24 batters, gave up five hits (including two doubles) and three walks, and surrendered one earned run.
Kendall Korbal succeeded the Arkansas starter on the mound and, although he struck out Bryce Massanari, the Georgia catcher nevertheless reached first base on the wild pitch that sent Poythress to third. After Lyle Allen was plunked to load the bases, Cerione went down swinging, unable to bring the tying run the final 90 feet of the way home.
House swung at the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the inning and turned it into a base hit. Tschepikow put down the sacrifice bunt that advanced the baserunner, prompting David Perno to remove Trevor Holder after a five-inning, seven-hit, two-run performance. When Alex McRee was sent on in relief, he struck out Cisterna before House stole third. McRee thereafter coaxed a strikeout from Tim Smalling to end the threat.
Razorback shortstop Tim Smalling went one for four, but he's good enough, he's smart enough, and, doggone it, people like him.
The Diamond Dogs encountered more frustration in the seventh stanza, when Peisel led off with a base hit through the left side and took second base on a Demperio sacrifice bunt. After Beckham went down swinging, Peisel stole third, again putting the tying run 90 feet away from home plate. Poythress struck out looking.
The bottom of the inning began similarly for the Hogs: Chase Leavitt was hit by a pitch and Eibner sacrificed him over to second. Forsythe, however, drew a base on balls to put two men aboard with only one out, then, after Wilkins hit into the fielder's choice that cut down the Arkansas right fielder, Murphree drew the walk that loaded the bases for House. Fortunately, the Razorback left fielder flied out to keep it a one-run game.
The Diamond Dogs produced only one baserunner in the top of the eighth, and that one only because Korbal plunked Massanari. In the bottom of the stanza, McRee's first pitch struck Tschepikow, who proceeded to steal second base. A Cisterna flyout moved him over to third and a Smalling single brought him home.
This brought Stephen Ochs to the mound and the latest Georgia reliever surrendered singles to Leavitt and Forsythe, as well as a double to Eibner that plated a pair of runs. By the time Wilkins and Murphree registered the outs that ended the inning, Arkansas had opened up a 5-1 lead on a three-run, four-hit frame.
Who could have seen that one coming?
The top of the ninth was almost wholly without dramatics. Cerione popped up, Peisel grounded out, and, after Demperio turned a bunt into a base hit, Beckham popped up to conclude the contest.
The Razorbacks ultimately succeeded in breaking open a tight ballgame in which the Diamond Dogs simply could not push runs across the plate. The Red and Black's bats were not exactly silent---the first four hitters in the Georgia lineup went a combined six for fifteen at the plate with a trio of walks between them---but the constant stranding of baserunners (including two each in the first and fifth innings and three in the sixth inning) came back to haunt the Classic City Canines.
The home team did a better job of taking advantage of its opportunities, and that was the end of that. The same two squads will continue their S.E.C. series on Saturday.