Earlier today, I indicated that I did not mean to minimize the importance of this evening's game against Georgia Tech, in spite of the fact that the Diamond Dogs had a much more significant series to which to look forward this weekend. Even so, though, the midweek contest was consequential for Georgia solely because the in-state rival Yellow Jackets were the opponent, and for absolutely no other reason whatsoever, but that incentive to perform well did not prevent the visitors from notching an 11-1 victory.
Charlie Blackmon led off the top of the first inning with a base hit off of Will Harvil and, after Jeff Rowland struck out, Luke Murton was plunked to move the Ramblin' Wreck right fielder to second. A Derek Dietrich single scored Blackmon before the next two Yellow Jackets recorded outs to end a frame in which the visitors took a 1-0 lead. Deck McGuire retired the Red and Black in order in the bottom of the canto.
Chase Burnette put a one-out single into center field in the visitors' half of the second stanza and no sooner had the Georgia Tech left fielder swiped second than Cole Leonida was hit by a pitch. Fortunately, Blackmon grounded into the double play that prevented the Golden Tornado from plating another run. The Classic City Canines had only a strikeout, a groundout, and a lineout to show for the home half of the inning.
Murton drove a one-out home run to left field to give Georgia Tech a 2-0 edge in the top of the third frame, prompting a Georgia pitching switch from Harvil to Alex McRee. The new Bulldog hurler immediately surrendered a base hit to Dietrich, but he extracted strikeouts from the next two batters. No Classic City Canine made it as far as first base in the bottom of the canto.
Just kick back and relax, buddy; in fact, why don't you take the night off?
Although Thomas Nichols led off the fourth stanza with a single, the next three batters amassed only outs to bring the home team back up to bat in the bottom of the inning. Matt Olson broke up the no-hitter by dropping a one-out double into center field and, after Gordon Beckham stared at a called third strike, Rich Poythress doubled to center field, as well, to make it a one-run game. Bryce Massanari grounded out to bring matters to a close.
The hurling duties devolved upon Justin Grimm in the top of the fifth frame and the Georgia reliever walked Rowland to get the inning underway. A Murton single moved the Ramblin' Wreck center fielder over to third and, when Dietrich reached on a fielder's choice, Rowland was thrown out at home. After Tony Plagman flied out, Brad Feltes knocked a base hit to left field to score a pair of runs. By the time Nichols popped up, the visitors had assumed a 4-1 lead.
Lyle Allen began the bottom of the frame with a single to right field and Robbie O'Bryan grounded out to move him over to second, but the next two Diamond Dogs to enter the batter's box went down swinging. The sixth stanza commenced with another Red and Black pitching change, as Steve Esmonde took over on the mound and promptly secured the first two outs of the inning. The third proved more elusive.
Blackmon and Rowland registered consecutive singles, the latter of which coincided with an error by Esmonde, resulting in a Georgia Tech score. Murton doubled to center field to bring home another run and an error by Ryan Peisel permitted Dietrich to reach first base and another run to cross home plate. When Plagman singled to right field to advance the Georgia Tech shortstop to third, Esmonde's evening was done and Nick Montgomery was sent on in his stead.
At this point, we could have sent in Elizabeth Montgomery and it wouldn't have made much of a difference.
After the latest Georgia hurler induced Feltes to fly out to right field, the Red and Black went three up and three down in the home half of the canto. The first two batters in the top of the seventh inning struck out looking before Leonida walked and Blackmon sent a two-run shot to center field to make it 9-1. Rowland stared at a called third strike, as well, to conclude the stanza.
The first two Red and Black batters in the home half of the canto flied out, but Allen belted a base hit to center field and Joey Lewis was hit by a pitch before Adam Fuller grounded out to keep the score unchanged. Justin Earls was on the mound to begin the top of the eighth frame and he recorded a pair of outs before giving up a single to Plagman and a home run to Feltes. Nichols grounded out in the next at-bat, but, by that time, Georgia Tech held an 11-1 lead.
McGuire finally called it a night after seven stanzas, giving way to Andrew Robinson in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Classic City Canines went three up and three down against the Yellow Jacket reliever. After Chris House walked and Leonida struck out looking in the top of the ninth canto, Dean Weaver succeeded Earls on the hill and extracted outs from each of the two ensuing batters.
Taylor Wood got in on the act for Georgia Tech in the bottom of the final frame, taking over the pitching responsibilities in time to surrender a leadoff single to Beckham. The Georgia shortstop took second on a wild pitch and, after Poythress flied out to left field, Jake Crane grounded out to move Beckham over to third. Allen was hit by a pitch before Lewis struck out swinging to put this calamitous contest out of its misery.
My attitude has always been that, if you're going to lose anyway, you might as well lose a blowout. That way, there is less room for second-guessing, recriminations, and wondering what if. Last fall, the South Carolina loss nagged at me for far longer than the Tennessee loss, because the former easily could have gone the other way, while the latter was a lost cause from the get-go.
So it was with Wednesday night's bludgeoning at the hands of the Yellow Jackets. The visitors out-hit the home team by a 15-5 margin and played errorless baseball. Deck McGuire remained in the game for seven strong innings, facing 26 batters, tallying nine strikeouts, issuing no walks, allowing four hits, and surrendering one earned run. The bullpen followed that up with two scoreless innings in which the relievers struck out two, walked none, and conceded one hit.
The Ramblin' Wreck enjoyed strong performances by Charlie Blackmon (3 for 5, 2 R.B.I.), Derek Dietrich (2 for 5, 1 R.B.I.), Brad Feltes (2 for 5, 4 R.B.I.), Luke Murton (3 for 4, 2 R.B.I.), and Tony Plagman (2 for 5), while Lyle Allen was the lone Diamond Dog to have a multi-hit day. At the top of the order, Ryan Peisel, Matt Olson, Gordon Beckham, Rich Poythress, and Bryce Massanari combined to go three for 19 with one R.B.I. and six strikeouts.
It was a bad outing against a decent team and there is nothing to do but tip your cap to Georgia Tech, put it in your rear view mirror, and be glad our former star quarterback who played while he was one of multiple academically ineligible athletes didn't just resign his position with his alma mater when, after one week on the job, he was arrested for driving under the influence, possession of marijuana, having an open container, and hit and run immediately after Cinco de Mayo. Friday is the first day of the rest of Georgia's season and every bit of the sting will be taken out of this ugly loss by a win in Nashville two nights hence.