I drew some measure of encouragement from the Diamond Dogs' road win over Kennesaw State on Tuesday night. That extra confidence was not entirely decimated by the Red and Black's home loss to the Owls on Wednesday afternoon, but the setback certainly didn't help matters.
Alex McRee was on the mound in the top of the first frame and the Georgia starter not only surrendered a bunt single to leadoff hitter Jacob Robbins, he compounded the poor start with an error that allowed the Kennesaw State second baseman to advance to third. This made it easy for Ric Bishop to register an R.B.I. groundout to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Fortunately, the home team took it right back (and then some) in the bottom of the inning. Ryan Peisel began the Classic City Canines' turn at the plate by drawing a walk and taking second on a wild pitch. Michael Demperio walked, as well, and, after Gordon Beckham popped up, Rich Poythress's single to center field scored Peisel. Although Matt Olson hit into a fielder's choice, Demperio moved over to third and scored on the throw. Joey Lewis flied out to end the inning with Georgia holding a 2-1 advantage.
A two-out base hit by Andrew Martin in the top of the ensuing stanza marked the only at-bat of the second canto to generate anything other than an out for either squad, but the Owls went right back on the offensive in the visitors' half of the third inning. Following a Bucky Smith flyout to begin the proceedings, Robbins put down his second successful bunt attempt of the game and promptly thereafter stole second. When an error allowed Bishop to reach base and advance to second himself, Robbins scored an unearned run to tie the contest.
Unearned . . . you know, like Elvis's black belt.
This marked the end of McRee's stay on the hill, as the Georgia starter was pulled after facing just a dozen batters, striking out two but surrendering a trio of hits. Although he ultimately was to be charged with three runs, none of them were earned, although one of them was his fault. Ryan Woolley assumed the hurling responsibilities and proceeded directly to plunk Jay Morrow.
Jace Whitmer plated Bishop with a base hit to left field and, after Drew Fowlkes reached on the error that loaded the bases, Martin hit into the fielder's choice that ended the Owls' turn at the plate with K.S.U. holding a 3-2 edge. Beckham was hit by a pitch and swiped second in the bottom of the frame, but none of his teammates succeeded either in reaching base or in advancing him nearer to home.
A base hit by Smith in the fourth canto went for naught when the K.S.U. shortstop was caught stealing to record the third out of the inning but Olson's leadoff single in the home half of the stanza carried consequences, as the Georgia right fielder took second on a wild pitch and came around to score on a Bryce Massanari single to center field before Lyle Allen lined into the inning-ending double play that left the score snarled at 3-3.
Stephen Ochs took over the pitching duties at the outset of the fifth frame and immediately conceded a base hit to Martin Baker. Morrow followed up a Bishop flyout with a single of his own to move the Kennesaw State center fielder over to third. Fortunately, Whitmer hit into the double play that kept Baker from breaking the deadlock. The Diamond Dogs, though, did nothing to capitalize upon this opportunity in the bottom of the stanza, as neither a Matt Cerione single nor a Demperio walk generated a run.
Evidently, Georgia's offensive philosophy against Kennesaw State was "walks, not runs."
The Classic City Canines' comedy of errors continued in the top of the sixth inning, although the visitors did much to help their own cause, commencing with a leadoff walk by Fowlkes. Martin sacrificed the Kennesaw State designated hitter over to second and, after Tyler Stubblefield was plunked, Smith hit into the fielder's choice that sent Fowlkes to third. A Robbins walk and a run-scoring passed ball signaled the end of Ochs's evening.
On came Stephen Brock, at the start of whose watch Robbins stole second and Baker registered a base hit. The Owl center fielder advanced as far as third on an error while claiming credit for having batted in a pair of runs, then another error allowed Bishop to reach first and Baker to plate another unearned score. Mercifully, the K.S.U. left fielder was caught stealing to end a two-error, one-hit, four-run inning.
No Diamond Dog reached base in the bottom of the sixth stanza and no player for either team reached base in the seventh canto. The visitors built on their lead in the top of the eighth frame, in which a one-out base hit by Stubblefield chased Brock from the game, putting Nick Montgomery in a position to surrender a run-scoring double to Smith. The latest Georgia reliever retired the next two batters to keep the score 8-3 in Kennesaw State's favor.
Peisel led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a base hit to right field. Demperio singled to center field and, after Beckham flied out, Poythress tacked on the base hit that brought Peisel home. An additional single by Olson scored Demperio and forced a K.S.U. pitching change. The resulting wild pitch plated Poythress before Lewis and Massanari both popped up to bring down the curtain on a three-run, four-hit frame that brought the home team within two runs of their guests.
Missed it by that much.
Each of the first two Owls to bat in the top of the ninth canto grounded out, but Whitmer's subsequent single to left field earned Montgomery the hook. Dean Weaver then became the sixth Georgia pitcher of the night but the first neither to plunk nor to permit a hit to the first batter he faced; instead, the Bulldog closer struck out Fowlkes.
It appeared as though the Red and Black were determined to overcome their own miscues when Allen began the bottom of the final frame with a base hit. However, there followed a Cerione strikeout, a Peisel pop-up, and a Demperio flyout to give the visitors the victory in a game the Diamond Dogs did not deserve to win.
The first three batters in the Georgia order between them went two for ten and batted in no runs. Although the Classic City Canines were outperformed only by two runs (8-6) and by two hits (11-9), the Owls committed no errors, as opposed to the Bulldogs' five. Ryan Peisel, who was charged with his sixth and seventh errors of the season on Wednesday, notched a higher number in the "E" column (2) than he did in the "H" column (1).
Granted, Kennesaw State is better than you think, but the Red and Black appeared to lack focus in what could have been a series-sweeping midweek victory. They will need to hit, pitch, and field better as a team if they hope to emerge victorious from Starkville following this weekend's three-game S.E.C. set with Mississippi State.