For the second time in as many days, the Diamond Dogs confronted visiting Presbyterian on Wednesday afternoon. After beating the Blue Hose on Tuesday, Georgia looked for the young season’s second straight series sweep, which the Red and Black got with an 11-4 victory in today’s action.
Jesse Harmon led off the top of the first frame by going down swinging, but starter Jason Leaver issued a free pass to first base to Zac Rhinesmith in the ensuing plate appearance. Leaver proceeded to strike out Cory Lyda and extract a pop-up from Kenny Bryant to negate the inaugural baserunner of the outing.
The Red and Black were retired in sequence in the home half of the canto, with Peter Verdin and Colby May carding strikeouts. The Blue Hose got another man aboard in the top of the second stanza when Bobby Cole was plunked following a Jared Combs flyout, but Drew Wingo obligingly grounded into the double play that again rendered moot the presence of an opposing player on the basepaths.
The Classic City Canines produced their first baserunner in the bottom of the inning when Rich Poythress reached on an error. The Georgia infielder sought to take full advantage of the opportunity thus afforded, swiping second base to clear the spot which Bryce Massanari filled by drawing a walk. Although Joey Lewis sent a double-play ball to short, Poythress advanced to third on the play, only to be stranded there when Chase Davidson flied out to left field.
The scoreless deadlock persisted through the visitors’ half of the third frame, in which Presbyterian went three up and three down. The first runs, therefore, were pushed across home plate in the home half of the canto, commencing with Michael Demperio’s leadoff home run to stake the Diamond Dogs to a 1-0 lead with a single swing.
After David Thoms lined out, Johnathan Taylor drew a base on balls and stole second. Another walk was issued to Verdin, followed by another to May, thus loading the bases for Poythress and forcing a pitching change, as Mitchell Odom ascended the hill in relief of Garrett Moore. The new Blue Hose hurler succeeded in striking out Poythress but the Bulldogs broke out to a 5-0 advantage on Massanari’s ensuing grand slam. Lewis flied out to conclude the canto.
To their credit, the visitors had an answer in the top of the fourth inning. Rhinesmith got the proceedings underway with a base hit and, after Lyda swung at strike three, Bryant brought two runs in by putting one ball out in right center field. The next two Presbyterian batters registered outs, but the Red and Black’s five-run lead was now a three-run cushion.
Thoms punched a two-out single through the left side in the home half of the stanza and, aided by a throwing error, the Georgia second baseman advanced to third and tried for home, where he was cut down cruelly to prevent the Athenians from adding to their edge. A leadoff double by Wingo in the top of the fifth frame was erased when a Nate Horton flyout to advance the baserunner 90 feet was followed by back-to-back strikeouts from Gabe Grammer and Harmon.
Verdin opened the home team’s turn at bat with a walk and, although he took second on a May groundout, the Georgia left fielder was thrown out at third. Nevertheless, Poythress drew a base on balls with two outs away, which Massanari and Lewis followed with consecutive singles to plate the Bulldog first baseman. Although the latest Blue Hose pitching switch produced the groundout that ended the inning, the score was 6-2.
Still Presbyterian declined to surrender to the superior Bulldogs. The visitors’ trips to the plate during the sixth canto saw Rhinesmith drawing an inning-opening walk, Lyda reaching on the fielder’s choice that saw everyone safe on account of a Red and Black throwing error, Bryant flying out to left field, Combs grounding out to score one run, Cole walking, and another run crossing the plate on the play that saw the Blue Hose left fielder caught stealing.
Demperio became the latest player to lead off an inning by getting aboard when he was awarded a walk in the bottom of the sixth stanza. Miles Starr singled to generate another Bulldog baserunner, and, after Zach Cone registered a strikeout, Lyle Allen drew the walk that loaded the bases for May, whose sacrifice fly drove in a run. Poythress was issued a base on balls as a result of a coach’s decision rather than as a result of a pitcher’s inaccuracy and Massanari flied out to keep the score 7-4.
A leadoff walk by Wingo went to waste for the Blue Hose in the top of the seventh inning, as the next three Presbyterian batters all recorded outs, but the Red and Black went back on the attack in the home half of the frame. Lewis doubled to begin the proceedings, Davidson moved him over to third in the course of being thrown out at first, Demperio walked, and the subsequent throwing error that allowed Starr to reach base also enabled the Georgia catcher to score before Cone grounded into a double play.
Just to reiterate, Presbyterian’s Blue Hose mascot is really a Scotsman in a kilt. Try not to think about that for too long or you’ll cause blood vessels to burst in your brain.
Lyda did his part for the visitors in the top of the eighth canto, dropping a one-out single into center field and stealing second base after Bryant stared at a called third strike. A Combs walk and a wild pitch by Justin Earls put two Presbyterian runners in scoring position, but Cole flied out to preserve the Diamond Dogs’ 8-4 lead.
Doubling up the Blue Hose evidently was not enough for the Classic City Canines, though, for Allen opened the bottom of the frame with a base hit and May followed that up with a base on balls. A Poythress groundout nudged both baserunners forward 90 feet apiece, freeing up a base for Massanari to be walked intentionally but also opening the door for a Davidson double to bring home a trio of runs after Lewis went down swinging.
Starr’s ensuing groundout was not to be held against him, for the Diamond Dogs were up by an 11-4 count and Michael Palazzone was on the mound, where he struck out Wingo, struck out Horton, and---in a dramatic flourish reminiscent of the sainted Joshua Fields toying with his prey before dashing utterly the opposition’s faint flickers of hope---watched as Andrew Williams pinch hit, reached on an error, and advanced to second base. From that vantage point, Williams was able to see Palazzone strike out Harmon in the latest successful installment of the Red and Black’s ongoing campaign to prevent a bottom half of the ninth inning from ever again being played at Foley Field.
In addition to outscoring the Blue Hose, the Diamond Dogs out-hit them (9-4) and committed only two errors to Presbyterian’s three. Jason Leaver went five frames, conceding three hits and two earned runs while striking out six, and the visitors fanned a dozen times as leadoff man Jesse Harmon went without a hit or a walk in five at-bats while whiffing four times. We’ll see how it goes for the Classic City Canines when they journey to play Arizona this weekend, but, for now, it is, as always, great to be a Georgia Bulldog.