Georgia 11, N.C. State 4

Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith said it best: "I love it when a plan comes together!" We knew going in that the Diamond Dogs were hitting the ball hard, that N.C. State wasn’t, and that Trevor Holder didn’t have to have the game of his life. Well, Georgia still was, the Wolfpack still wasn’t, and, despite some rather silly accusations of shenanigans, the Red and Black starting pitcher gave his team exactly the performance the Classic City Canines needed him to have, resulting in an impressive win in the opening game of the super regional.

It was not immediately evident that Holder would have such an outstanding outing, however. After Dallas Poulk struck out in the opening at-bat of the first frame, Ryan Pond and Jeremy Synan collected consecutive singles. Rather than get rattled, though, the Bulldog hurler extracted a double-play groundout from Matt Payne to conclude the canto.

Clayton Shunick took up station on the mound in the bottom of the initial inning and struck out Ryan Peisel on three straight pitches before walking Matt Olson. Gordon Beckham put the first pitch thrown his way into play in the ensuing at-bat, grounding into a double play in the process. Holder struck out Pat Ferguson to start the top of the second stanza and, after issuing a two-out walk to Chris Schaeffer, he struck out Tommy Foschi.

A leadoff single by Rich Poythress in the home half of the inning was erased when Bryce Massanari grounded into a double play. Matt Cerione then went down swinging. The visitors’ half of the third frame began with a bang when Drew Martin led off with a solo shot to left field. After Poulk flied out, Pond drove a home run out to center field, as well. Holder retired the next two N.C. State batters.

Why should we want to beat the Wolfpack so badly? Because Dick Sheridan was halfway from Raleigh to Athens in 1988 when he changed his mind and left us stuck with Ray Goff, that’s why!

Georgia took it right back in the bottom of the stanza, and then some, starting with Robbie O’Bryan’s leadoff walk. The Red and Black designated hitter took second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a base hit by Lyle Allen. After both David Thoms and Peisel struck out swinging, Olson punched a single through the left side to plate O’Bryan.

Beckham’s subsequent double brought home the tying run in the form of Allen and the go-ahead run in the form of Olson. A Poythress single made it 4-2 and, although Massanari was hit by a payoff pitch to put two men aboard for Cerione, the Bulldog center fielder was thrown out at first to wrap up the Classic City Canines’ turn at the plate.

The top of the fourth frame began with a Ferguson flyout. After surrendering a first-pitch single to Marcus Jones, Holder sneaked a called third strike by Schaeffer and persuaded Foschi to hit into a fielder’s choice. Shunick retired the side in sequence in the bottom of the inning.

The Wolfpack had only a one-out first-pitch single from Poulk to show for the top of the fifth canto and the Diamond Dogs went three up and three down in the bottom of the inning. The visitors’ half of the sixth stanza commenced with a Payne single up the middle, but Ferguson thereafter reached on a fielder’s choice and Jones grounded into a double play.

Why should we want to beat the Wolfpack so badly? Because constant Georgia-basher Lou Holtz coached there, that’s why!

What previously had been a pitchers’ duel took a favorable turn for the host squad in the bottom of the frame. Poythress led off with a walk and Massanari punched a first-pitch single through the right side. Payne’s resulting throwing error allowed the Georgia catcher to advance as far as third base as the Bulldog first baseman scored.

A first-pitch double down the left field line by Cerione scored Massanari, and, after O’Bryan popped up on a bunt attempt, Allen added a double of his own to bring Cerione home and drive Shunick from the game. Drew Taylor took over in the celebrated Wolfpack starter’s stead and immediately surrendered the home run to Joey Lewis that tacked on two more runs. The next two Georgia batters were retired to put a five-run frame in the books.

Holder retired the side on three straight groundouts in the top of the seventh stanza and new N.C. State hurler Joey Cutler sat down each of the three Classic City Canines who crossed his path in the bottom of the canto. Poulk started the visitors’ half of the eighth frame with a four-pitch walk and took second on a Pond groundout, but, after a Miles Starr error allowed Synan to reach base, Payne grounded into a double play.

The home half of the frame commenced with a Cerione single off of Jeff Stallings, which was followed by a stolen base and an O’Bryan groundout. After Allen walked on four consecutive pitches, Starr doubled down the left field line to tack on two more runs. Stallings was succeeded on the mound by Jason Zinser, who got Peisel to ground out prior to throwing the wild pitch and the eight consecutive balls that walked Olson and Beckham to load the bases for Poythress. The Georgia first baseman flied out to keep the score 11-2.

Why should we want to beat the Wolfpack so badly? Because Jim Donnan is an N.C. State alumnus, that’s why!

Holder returned to the hill to pitch the top of the ninth inning, eliciting a strikeout from Ferguson and extracting a groundout from Jones. With one out separating him from the complete game, the Bulldog starter walked Nick Stanley on some evidently questionable ball-strike calls and hit Foschi with a pitch to put two men aboard.

This necessitated bringing in Justin Earls from the bullpen. The Red and Black reliever walked Russell Wilson to load the bases for Poulk, who put the ball into play. Beckham was charged with a pair of errors on the play, the first for his fielding and the second for his throw. Although this allowed a pair of unearned runs to cross the plate, Pond fouled out in the next at-bat to bring matters to a close.

As evidenced by the Diamond Dogs’ three errors, the game was a little less than absolutely perfect, but, on the whole, it was exactly the sort of outing the Red and Black needed. Ryan Peisel continued to struggle in the leadoff spot (0 for 5, 2 strikeouts), but the Classic City Canines enjoyed solid run production from Matt Olson (1 for 3, 1 R.B.I.), Gordon Beckham (1 for 4, 2 R.B.I.), Rich Poythress (2 for 4, 1 R.B.I.), Matt Cerione (2 for 4, 1 R.B.I.), Lyle Allen (2 for 3, 1 R.B.I.), Joey Lewis (1 for 1, 2 R.B.I.), and Miles Starr (1 for 1, 2 R.B.I.).

What bodes well for tomorrow’s contest, though, is Trevor Holder’s exceptional afternoon. After giving up four hits, two home runs, and two earned runs in the first three innings, the Georgia starter gave up just three more hits and no more earned runs in the remaining five and two-thirds frames. While N.C. State was busy using four pitchers out of the bullpen, the Red and Black required only 14 pitches from one reliever, leaving the rest of the staff well-rested for Saturday.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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