Sunday’s circumstances could not have been more clear: Georgia won on Friday, N.C. State won on Saturday, and Sunday’s game was to determine which team would be bound for Omaha and which would go (or stay) home. For the benefit of those of you who were unable to follow the game when ESPN switched over to a competitive contest, the Diamond Dogs won in a rout.
Nick Montgomery drew the starting assignment and he began the top of the first frame by persuading Dallas Poulk to fly out and striking out Ryan Pond on three straight pitches. Although Jeremy Synan dropped a double into left field, Matt Payne grounded out to strand the baserunner.
The Red and Black just flat-out opened up a can in the bottom of the canto, commencing with Ryan Peisel’s leadoff base hit. Wolfpack hurler Eric Surkamp proceeded to plunk Matt Olson and walk Gordon Beckham to load the bases for Rich Poythress, who drew the base on balls that forced home a run.
A Bryce Massanari single to left field plated two more and drove Surkamp from the game. His successor on the mound, Sam Brown, surrendered the first-pitch bunt single to Matt Cerione which put three aboard for Robbie O’Bryan. The Bulldog designated hitter’s groundout pushed Poythress across the plate, then Lyle Allen belted a single to center field to drive in two more runs. Once a first-pitch base hit by David Thoms had moved the Georgia left fielder over to second, Peisel singled to create yet another bases-loaded situation.
After giving up six hits and four earned runs to the eight batters he faced in just two-thirds of an inning on the mound, N.C. State reliever Sam Brown could only tell reporters, "Good grief!"
A sacrifice fly from Olson brought Allen home before Beckham put the first pitch he saw into left field for the base hit that scored Thoms. Poythress’s ensuing single brought Peisel home and marked the end of the line for Brown, who was succeeded by Joey Cutler. By the time Massanari hit into a fielder’s choice, the Classic City Canines had notched eight hits and nine runs in the inning.
Honestly, at that point, it was all over except the shouting, but, still, as long as we’re here, I might as well report that N.C. State went three up and three down in the top of the second stanza and the Diamond Dogs had only a two-out single from Allen to show for the home half of the inning.
No batter for either team made it as far as first base in the third frame and the Wolfpack went down on a first-pitch groundout, a first-pitch flyout, and a strikeout (which always takes a minimum of three pitches, and which, in this particular instance, took five) in the visitors’ half of the fourth canto. A two-out double by Cerione produced the lone Bulldog baserunner in the bottom of the stanza.
A one-out walk by Pat Ferguson proved fruitless in the top of the fifth frame, as Tommy Foschi and Nick Stanley flied out in the next two at-bats. Although a fielding error by Drew Martin put Thoms aboard with one out away in the bottom of the inning, the next two Diamond Dogs likewise flied out to strand him.
Thanks to such Wolfpack performances as that by Nick Stanley (0 for 1), N.C. State did not get to take home the super regional trophy. Fortunately for Stanley, though, he always has his family’s cup for a consolation prize.
The Pack came to life at last in the top of the sixth stanza. With one out away and no one aboard, Poulk put a payoff pitch out to right field to prevent the shutout. This provided some spark for the visiting squad, as the next two at-bats produced a Pond single and a Synan home run. Even though the next two batters registered outs, a three-hit, three-run canto gave N.C. State some hope.
That faint flicker of hope did not last long, however, as Beckham led off the bottom of the frame with a solo shot to left field. Poythress thereafter collected a base hit and, once Massanari had popped up, Cutler was yanked and replaced by Drew Taylor. The latest Wolfpack hurler struck out Cerione and tossed the wild pitch that allowed Poythress to advance before conceding a two-run blast to Joey Lewis.
Allen took first base after being struck by Taylor’s last pitch, as Kyle Rutter came on to coax the groundout from Miles Starr that put a three-hit, three-run inning in the books. The seventh frame began with Alex McRee on the hill to pitch the top half of the canto. Although the Georgia reliever walked Ferguson, he thereafter elicited outs from the next three batters he faced.
Evidently not content with their nine-run advantage, the Red and Black exploded in the bottom of the frame, in which the first five at-bats produced, in sequence, a Peisel home run, an Olson single, a Beckham home run, a Poythress single, and a Massanari home run. Needless to say, Rutter’s day was done at that point and Eryk McConnell took over just in time to walk Cerione on four consecutive pitches. The next two Georgia batters flied out and hit into a double play, respectively, to conclude a five-hit, five-run inning.
Since the Classic City Canines now held a two-touchdown advantage, the home team might be forgiven for taking its foot off the gas a bit. It was, therefore, somewhat understandable when, in the top of the eighth frame, McRee walked Poulk on four pitches and gave up a run-scoring double to Synan after striking out Pond. Likewise, when Will Harvil was brought in from the bullpen, it was hard to fault him too much for allowing a single to Payne and a two-R.B.I. double to Ferguson with a strikeout of Marcus Jones sandwiched in between. Foschi’s ensuing strikeout on three pitches marked the end of the Wolfpack’s three-hit, three-run inning.
A leadoff walk by Starr in the bottom of the canto was erased when Peisel grounded into a double play. Olson’s ensuing groundout brought N.C. State back up to bat in the visitors’ half of the ninth frame, which was pitched by Joshua Fields. The Georgia reliever did what he always does, striking out the first two batters he faced before toying with the opposition to make matters more interesting.
This he did by surrendering a single to Poulk, walking Pond, throwing the wild pitch that allowed both baserunners to advance, walking Synan, and giving up the base hit to Payne that scored two meaningless runs. That, apparently, was harrowing enough for Fields, who struck out Jones to end the game and the series.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you are supposed to do that. Nick Montgomery went six stanzas as the starter, striking out three and walking one of the 23 batters he faced while conceding four hits and three earned runs. The bullpen got a little sloppy after the outcome was well beyond doubt, but the pitching staff as a whole issued only five bases on balls while notching nine strikeouts.
To find a comparably dominant Georgia sports performance, why, you’d have to go back more than five whole months!
The Diamond Dogs committed no errors and out-hit the opposition by an 18-9 margin. With one out away in the sixth inning, N.C. State had collected one hit and scored no runs. Five of the Pack’s nine hits and five of the visitors’ eight runs were scored in the final two frames.
That is not to say that no N.C. State batters had good days at the plate. In point of fact, Dallas Poulk (2 for 4, 1 R.B.I., 1 home run), Jeremy Synan (3 for 4, 3 R.B.I., 1 home run), Matt Payne (2 for 5, 2 R.B.I.), and Pat Ferguson (1 for 2, 2 R.B.I.) all did, but it was too little, too late, to overcome the opening-inning meltdown by Eric Surkamp and Sam Brown, who between them faced 13 batters, issued two walks, hit one batsman, surrendered eight hits, conceded nine earned runs, and secured two outs.
Meanwhile, the Red and Black made it easy on their pitching staff. It’s not terribly difficult to take the mound with a 9-0 lead in the top of the second stanza and the hits just kept on coming from Ryan Peisel (3 for 6, 1 R.B.I., 1 home run), Gordon Beckham (3 for 4, 4 R.B.I., 2 home runs), Rich Poythress (3 for 4, 2 R.B.I.), Bryce Massanari (2 for 5, 4 R.B.I., 1 home run), Joey Lewis (1 for 2, 2 R.B.I.), and Lyle Allen (2 for 4, 2 R.B.I.).
The magic carpet ride that has been the Diamond Dogs’ 2008 campaign will continue in the College World Series, as the Classic City Canines have run their record to 16-0 in N.C.A.A. elimination games played at Foley Field. We’ll worry about next weekend later; for now, let’s just tip our collective caps to the champions of the Athens Super Regional, who are Omaha-bound, baby!