The Diamond Dogs came into Friday night's outing against Ole Miss at Foley Field with a respectable ranking and projected to receive a solid postseason seeding, but, really, all the Red and Black were looking to do in their quest for an S.E.C. title was win a single outing, which they did.
Trevor Holder was on the mound for the Classic City Canines in the top of the first frame and, although he issued a leadoff walk to Jordan Henry, the Georgia hurler extracted outs from each of the next three Rebel batters to cross his path. The Bulldogs were retired in order in the home half of the canto.
Both teams were a good deal more energetic at the plate in the second stanza, starting in the top of the inning, when Zach Miller drove a solo shot to right field to give the guests a one-run advantage. The Mississippi second baseman performed his heroics with one out already away and the next two Rebels to stand in the batter's box registered outs, as well.
Rich Poythress was plunked in the inaugural at-bat of the bottom of the frame and the Red and Black first baseman wasted no time in stealing second. Following a Bryce Massanari groundout, a Tim Ferguson error enabled Lyle Allen to reach first and Poythress to advance to third. Joey Lewis thereafter went down swinging, but a double by Matt Cerione plated a pair of runs to give the Diamond Dogs the lead.
Ole Miss right fielder Jordan Henry went one for four in the opening game of Georgia's series against the Rebels, but, if it's any consolation to him, he is the subject of a Drive-By Truckers song.
After a base hit by Michael Demperio scored the Georgia center fielder, Ryan Peisel popped up to conclude the canto. Holder retired the side on a flyout, a groundout, and a strikeout in the top of the third stanza, permitting the Classic City Canines to go back to work in the bottom of the inning. After Matt Olson flied out to left field, Gordon Beckham sent a home run out in that same vicinity. The next two Bulldog batters lined out and grounded out, respectively.
Logan Power led off the visitors' half of the fourth frame with a base hit to right field and a Cody Overbeck double advanced him to third. When Matt Smith sent a single into left field, the Ole Miss center fielder crossed home plate. A Miller groundout scored the Rebel third baseman, as well, cutting the Red and Black's advantage to a single run. Holder succeeded in sneaking called third strikes past the next pair of batters to preserve the lead.
Allen successfully put down a bunt single to begin the bottom of the canto, but Lewis reached on the fielder's choice that saw the Georgia left fielder cut down at second base. Although a Cerione groundout advanced the Bulldog catcher to second, Demperio popped up to end the inning.
The top of the fifth stanza was but two batters old by the time there were two outs away, but Fuller Smith's solo home run to right field tied the game. The Rebels threatened to continue generating offensive production, as Power dropped a base hit into center field and attempted to swipe second, but the Mississippi center fielder was caught stealing to wrap up the visitors' turn at the plate.
Georgia right fielder Matt Olson went one for three under the Friday night lights, so he failed to match his cousin's achievement for the week, as Jimmy Olsen was given renewed relevance by being mentioned in Will Leitch's encounter with Buzz Bissinger on Bob Costas's show.
Olson sent a one-out single into left field in the home half of the frame to begin the Diamond Dogs' efforts to recapture the lead. Beckham drew a base on balls and Poythress popped up before Massanari, whose wife gave birth to a baby girl on Thursday, belted a base hit to right field to bring home the go-ahead run. Allen then grounded out to conclude the canto.
It did not appear in the top of the sixth stanza that the home team's lead would hold up for long. Overbeck led off with a base hit and, after the Ole Miss first baseman reached on a fielder's choice, Miller singled to center field to put runners at the corners. This signaled the end of the evening for Holder, who was lifted after facing 24 batters, striking out seven while walking one, and allowing four earned runs on eight hits (one of which was a double and two of which were home runs).
The hurling duties devolved upon Dean Weaver, who extracted a strikeout from Cullan Kight and coaxed a lineout from Ferguson to squelch the threat. The Classic City Canines went three up and three down in the bottom of the inning and Brett Basham struck out to start the seventh stanza, but Henry collected a base hit in the next at-bat and stole second after the next Mississippi hitter went down swinging. Power thereafter struck out to strand the Rebel right fielder in scoring position.
Olson drew a one-out walk in the home half of the canto, but, after the Rebels changed pitchers and Beckham flied out, the Georgia right fielder was caught stealing. Weaver retired the three batters he faced in the top of the eighth frame on a flyout, a strikeout, and a lineout. The Diamond Dogs likewise went quietly in the home half of the stanza.
Both Logan Power and Logan Williams played in Friday night's one-run Bulldog victory. Had the contest gone to extra innings, the Rebels likely would have sent this guy to the plate.
To the top of the ninth inning the contest went with Georgia holding a one-run lead and Joshua Fields holding the ball. The Bulldog closer struck out Kight before walking Ferguson. Logan Williams was sent to the plate as a pinch hitter and he flied out to left field. The Rebel shortstop stole second to put the tying run in scoring position, but Henry grounded out to give the Classic City Canines the win.
The game was far from perfect. Although the Diamond Dogs committed no errors, they were out-hit by a 9-6 margin and the Georgia leadoff hitter (Ryan Peisel), cleanup hitter (Rich Poythress), and designated hitter (Bryce Massanari) between them collected just one hit in a combined eleven at-bats, with one R.B.I., no walks, and three strikeouts.
Nevertheless, it was a typical gritty, gutsy Red and Black performance as the home team cobbled together a one-run win with the help of a bullpen that gave up one hit, one walk, and no earned runs while striking out six of the 13 batters Dean Weaver and Joshua Fields faced between them. After going 1-2-1 in their previous four league outings, the Diamond Dogs needed a conference win in the worst way and they found a way to get it.
Victories by Florida over South Carolina (after Jeremy Foley managed not to notice that he'd scheduled a midweek series that conflicted with exams) and by Vanderbilt over Tennessee on Friday night allowed the Gators and the Commodores to keep pace with the Red and Black, so Georgia was not able to put additional distance between the Classic City Canines and their closest challengers, but the nice thing about being in first place in May is that it doesn't matter what other teams do, as long as your team keeps winning. The Diamond Dogs will have their opportunity to clinch the series on Saturday.