After coming up short in the opening outing of the Athens Regional, the Diamond Dogs found themselves facing elimination starting with Saturday’s contest against Louisville. With their backs against the wall, the Classic City Canines reeled off three straight victories over the weekend to put themselves in a position to emerge triumphant from the first round of the N.C.A.A. playoffs.
Squaring off with the Cardinals in the losers’ bracket, the Red and Black got on the board first in the top of the initial inning. Ryan Peisel, Matt Olson, and Gordon Beckham opened the game with three straight singles to load the bases for Rich Poythress, whose sacrifice fly gave Georgia a 1-0 lead. U. of L. tied the game in the second frame when Stewart Ijames, Jeff Arnold, and Andrew Clark opened the canto with back-to-back-to-back base hits, enabling Phil Wunderlich to plate a run while grounding into a double play.
Louisville took the lead with a two-run third inning begun by a leadoff single from John Dao followed by a stolen base, but the Diamond Dogs chipped into the Cardinal lead in the fourth frame, in which Bryce Massanari drew a one-out walk, took third on a Matt Cerione single, and came home on a Joey Lewis groundout. An error by Beckham in the bottom of that selfsame inning and a leadoff home run by Wunderlich in the sixth stanza enabled U. of L. to take a 5-2 lead.
Matters took a turn in the seventh frame, however. Peisel led off with a single and Olson followed with a base hit of his own. A Beckham home run to right field tied the game, but the Diamond Dogs were not finished. A Poythress double, a Cerione single, and a throwing error by B.J. Rosenberg gave the Red and Black the lead. Additional runs crossed the plate on a Robbie O’Bryan triple, a Lyle Allen single, and a Peisel single. All told, the Classic City Canines scored seven runs on eight hits in the course of the canto.
The score remained unchanged heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, in which Joshua Fields retired two of the first three batters he faced before surrendering consecutive home runs to Ijames and Derrick Alfonso. This cut the Red and Black’s advantage to a harrowing 9-8 before the Georgia closer coaxed a game-ending groundout from Clark.
By eliminating the Cardinals on Saturday, the Classic City Canines set themselves up for two possible showdowns on Sunday in their ongoing efforts to remain alive in the regional round on their own home field. The Diamond Dogs took care of business in impressive fashion, starting with a demolition of the Bisons in the rematch with Lipscomb in the afternoon outing.
Peisel led off the top of the first frame with a walk and advanced to third on an Olson single. Beckham sent the first pitch he saw into center field to give Georgia a 1-0 edge and Poythress returned the first pitch thrown his way up the middle to give the Red and Black a 3-0 advantage. After groundouts by Massanari and Cerione moved Poythress over to third, an Allen single scored him to cap off a four-hit, four-run first frame.
The Classic City Canines kept the pressure on by adding two more runs in the second stanza to build up a 6-0 advantage. The Bisons did not go quietly, scoring three runs on an R.B.I. groundout by Allen Bolden in the third, a sacrifice fly by Ryan Wilkins in the fourth, and a run-scoring single by Bolden in the fifth, but Georgia was relentless, as a two-run shot by Massanari in the fourth and an R.B.I. single by Olson followed by a three-run homer by Poythress in the fifth kept the Diamond Dogs comfortably ahead.
Buffalo Bill Cody should have been in the Georgia lineup on Sunday, because the Diamond Dogs were Bison-killers.
The score remained 12-3 heading into the ninth canto, in the top of which Paul Piennette took the mound with two outs away and Beckham aboard, only to plunk Lewis and surrender consecutive singles to Cerione and Jake Crane. This brought two more runs home and Justin Earls closed it out in the bottom of the frame after starter Nathan Moreau had gone seven innings in which he struck out six, walked none, and gave up only three earned runs.
After polishing off the Bisons by a 14-3 final margin, the Red and Black retook the field for the second clash of their Sunday doubleheader. This time, Georgia faced in-state rival Georgia Tech and Nick Montgomery proceeded to throw a complete-game shutout of the Yellow Jackets. The Bulldog starter struck out nine and walked one of the 30 batters he faced, conceding just four hits and allowing no runs, earned or otherwise, in an 8-0 win over the Golden Tornado.
The game was scoreless heading into the bottom of the third stanza, in which Peisel put a one-out triple into right field and scored on a two-run blast to right center field by Olson. The Diamond Dogs generated another run in the fourth frame, as Massanari led off with a base hit to center field, Cerione and Allen added singles of their own to load the bases, and David Thoms drew the walk that pushed a run across the plate.
Massanari notched a two-out single in the bottom of the fifth inning, enabling Cerione to score two more on a home run to left field, and the Red and Black closed out the scoring in the seventh stanza. Beckham collected a one-out single, which was followed up by a Poythress home run, then Cerione tacked on a two-out first-pitch single and stole second, enabling O’Bryan to bring him home with a base hit.
After dropping five out of six contests between May 16 and May 30, Georgia won three games in two days, with each victory being more impressive than the last. The Classic City Canines garnered nine runs on 18 hits against Louisville, 14 runs on 21 hits against Lipscomb, and eight runs on twelve hits against Georgia Tech.
During the Red and Black’s Saturday and Sunday run, David Perno’s club saw impressive three-game stat lines from Ryan Peisel (6 for 16, 1 R.B.I.), Matt Olson (11 for 15, 3 R.B.I., 1 home run), Gordon Beckham (7 for 13, 5 R.B.I., 1 home run), Rich Poythress (5 for 13, 8 R.B.I., 2 home runs), Bryce Massanari (5 for 11, 3 R.B.I., 1 home run), Matt Cerione (8 for 14, 2 R.B.I., 1 home run), and Robbie O’Bryan (3 for 8, 2 R.B.I.).
Although Trevor Holder struggled against the Cardinals by giving up eight hits and four runs in four innings, the pitching against the Bisons was superb and Nick Montgomery’s performance against the Ramblin’ Wreck was exceptional. The Diamond Dogs’ late-season skid now seems to be a thing of the past and the Red and Black have rebounded to force a decisive game seven at Foley Field tomorrow night.
The final outing of the Athens Regional will begin shortly after 7:00 on Monday night, when Georgia and Georgia Tech will battle for the right to advance to the super regional round. Tickets go on sale tomorrow morning at 8:30 and may be purchased by calling 1-877-542-1231.