The Diamond Dogs were back in action at Foley Field on Tuesday night and, although the game did not represent a conference outing, it nevertheless marked an important match-up with longtime rival Clemson. The Tigers arrived in Athens sporting an 18-8 ledger and looking to continue the success they enjoyed against the Classic City Canines during last year's two-game sweep in this resumption of a series dating back to 1900.
The starting assignment went to Alex McRee, who took full advantage of the opportunity in the top of the first frame by retiring the side on a groundout, a flyout, and a strikeout to bring the home team up to bat. The Red and Black likewise made the most of matters in the bottom of the canto, commencing with Ryan Peisel's leadoff single to center field.
After the Georgia third baseman stole second, Matt Olson drew a walk as the new hitter in the second position in the Bulldog lineup. When Gordon Beckham hit into a fielder's choice, an error by Ben Paulsen loaded the bases for Rich Poythress, who had not yet had the chance to put the ball into play when Craig Gullickson threw the wild pitch that scored Peisel and Doug Hogan committed the error that scored Olson.
Poythress grounded out to plate Beckham before Bryce Massanari and Lyle Allen registered outs to conclude an inning that saw one hit, two errors, and three runs. Paulsen was plunked in the initial at-bat of the second stanza and, after Kyle Parker struck out swinging, Wilson Boyd drew a base on balls. Fortunately, the next two Clemson batters went down swinging to strand the Tiger first baseman in scoring position.
It was not a good night to be wearing purple and orange. Of course, it's never a good night to be wearing purple and orange!
The Classic City Canines resumed their attack in the bottom of the canto. Joey Lewis led off with a home run to center field and Adam Fuller added a base hit. Although Michael Demperio grounded into a double play, Peisel followed that up with a bunt single and advanced to second base on a Parker error. A balk moved the baserunner over to third and, after Olson drew a walk, another balk plated Peisel. Beckham struck out to wrap up an inning featuring one error, two runs, and three hits to give the Diamond Dogs a 5-0 advantage.
No Tiger batter made it safely to first base in the top of the third stanza, but a pitching change to start the bottom of the frame served the visitors well. Clinton McKinney took over on the mound and immediately elicited a pop-up from Poythress and a flyout from Massanari. Although Allen singled to center field and Lewis walked, the Bulldog left fielder was caught stealing and picked off to conclude a scoreless canto.
Hogan led off the fourth inning by striking out, but McRee plunked Paulsen and walked Parker to put a pair of Tigers aboard for Boyd, who struck out swinging. John Nester then stared at a called third strike to conclude the visitors' fruitless turn at the plate. After a dropped foul ball to begin the bottom of the inning marked the fourth Clemson error of the evening, Fuller flied out, then Demperio reached first base seemingly the only way he could: by being hit by a pitch.
After Peisel flied out, as well, the Georgia second baseman stole the base with which he was most familiar and came around to score when Olson belted a triple into center field. A Beckham single plated the Bulldog right fielder and, after the Red and Black shortstop also swiped second, a Poythress double brought him the rest of the way around, too.
Be forewarned: I am leading off the fifth inning with a rant. (A guy named Stephen is also involved, incidentally.)
This signaled the conclusion of McKinney's night at the ballpark and marked the ascension of Trey Delk, who surrendered an R.B.I. single to Massanari before striking out Allen to put a four-hit, four-run canto in the books.
The fifth frame then got underway with one of the aspects of midweek college baseball games I like the least: McRee was pulled from the contest after facing 16 batters over four innings, walking two of them and plunking two more but allowing neither an earned run nor a run of any kind nor, for that matter, even a hit. I know, I know, you want to save your weekday starters for use in relief on the weekends, but, for crying out loud, when a guy's got a no-hitter going against an old rival, leave him in the dadgum game!
Instead, Stephen Brock was given the ball and he proceeded to walk Matt Sanders, walk Chris Epps, and plunk Mike Freeman to load the bases for Jeff Schaus, who sent a sacrifice fly to right field to score the first Clemson run of the evening. Freeman was picked off and Hogan popped up to keep the Tigers from clawing their way any closer than 9-1, however.
The Diamond Dogs took the run right back in the bottom of the inning, in which Lewis led off with a double to center field. A base hit by Fuller advanced the Georgia catcher to third and, after Demperio struck out looking and Fuller stole second, Peisel grounded out to plate Lewis and make it a nine-run game again. Olson grounded out to conclude the canto.
That's a nice number of runs.
Brock was back on the mound to begin the top of the sixth stanza and he started off by walking Paulsen and Parker in succession. That was enough to end the Georgia reliever's evening, so Justin Earls was brought in from the bullpen to replace the hurler who had issued four bases on balls and hit one batsman while facing just seven batters.
Earls immediately threw the wild pitch that advanced both baserunners, then he gave up the single to Boyd that marked the first Clemson hit of the night and plated a pair of runs to cut the home team's lead to 10-3. Nester added insult to injury by tacking on a second single and Sanders reached on a fielder's choice. Earls thereafter succeeded in coaxing a flyout from Stan Widmann and sneaking a called third strike by Freeman to bring the Diamond Dogs back up to the plate.
Although Beckham led off the bottom of the frame with a strikeout, Poythress hit a home run to left field in the ensuing at-bat. Massanari and Matt Cerione then struck out in succession, but not before the Red and Black had extended their lead to 11-3. Conveniently, Clemson went quietly in the top of the seventh stanza, as Schaus led off by popping up and Paulsen grounded into a double play after Hogan reached on a Demperio error.
After a two-out base hit by Demperio produced the only Bulldog baserunner of the home half of the seventh canto, the Tigers came up to bat in the top of the eighth frame and found themselves facing Will Harvil. The latest Georgia hurler allowed a leadoff single to Parker but proceeded to procure a strikeout from Boyd, a groundout from John Hinson, and a flyout from Sanders.
Clemson pinch hitter John Hinson failed to get a hit in his lone late-inning at-bat, confirming yet again that his and his brothers' best days were behind them when "Mmm-Bop" dropped out of the top 40.
Georgia went three up and three down in the bottom of the eighth canto on a groundout, a flyout, and a strikeout, so Harvil went right back to the mound and he conceded a base hit to Alex Lee at the outset of the ninth inning. Fortunately, J.D. Burgess immediately thereafter grounded into a double play, leaving it to Schaus to register the anticlimactic groundout that ended the contest.
Although I find the (admittedly understandable) decision to lift Alex McRee mildly annoying, an outing such as this one leaves the Bulldog faithful with little room for complaint. The Red and Black tallied eleven runs on thirteen hits and committed only one error, while Clemson notched three runs on four hits and the Tigers were guilty of four miscues.
Every Classic City Canine with at least two at-bats recorded at least one hit. Ryan Peisel (2 for 5), Matt Olson (1 for 3, 2 walks), Gordon Beckham (1 for 5), Bryce Massanari (1 for 4), and Joey Lewis (2 for 3, 1 walk) all had one R.B.I. apiece and Rich Poythress (2 for 5) batted in a trio of runs.
The challenge for Georgia now is to maintain the momentum on Wednesday's trip to Fort Hill. This was a solid start to a significant non-conference series for a Red and Black squad that boasts the league's second-best record in S.E.C. play, is one game behind conference frontrunner Florida, and is looking to earn the sweep over Clemson heading into a weekend series with South Carolina.