The Diamond Dogs were on the road on Friday night for their first real test of the year against Arizona in Tucson. The offensive onslaught continued for the Classic City Canines, who outslugged the Wildcats along the way to an 11-5 victory.
For the first time this season, the Red and Black batted in the top of the first frame, and Johnathan Taylor did what he does by dropping a single into right field to lead off the game. The next two plate appearances produced a Michael Demperio walk and a Colby May sacrifice bunt to advance the baserunners, which together enabled Rich Poythress to plate a run the old-fashioned way---90 feet at a time---by grounding out to third base.
A base hit by Bryce Massanari brought Demperio home, as well, and Joey Lewis kept it going with another single before Chase Davidson went down swinging to put a three-hit, two-run canto in the books. Trevor Holder took the hill for the visitors in the bottom of the inning and gave up a leadoff single to Rafael Valenzuela. After the Wildcat infielder stole second base, Bryce Ortega swung at strike three.
Bobby Coyle’s ensuing base hit put runners at the corners for Brad Glenn, who hit into a run-scoring fielder’s choice. Although another stolen base and a walk drawn by Dillon Baird made it appear as though the home team would tie the game in the first canto, Steve Selsky grounded out to keep the Bulldogs in the lead by a run.
Selsky’s partner, Hutch, reportedly was very disappointed in his performance in the first inning.
The leadoff man once more got aboard to start the visitors’ half of the second stanza, as Lyle Allen walked. The Georgia left fielder took second when Levi Hyams was thrown out at first, but, after Taylor was plunked, Demperio and May registered the outs that ended the Diamond Dogs’ turn at the plate. Holder retired the side in sequence in the home half of the frame and Arizona hurler Preston Guilmet returned the favor by causing the Classic City Canines to go three up and three down in the top of the third inning.
The first two Wildcats to step into the batter’s box in the bottom of the canto grounded out and lined out, respectively, but Coyle tied the game with a solo shot to right field before Glenn popped up to end an otherwise uneventful inning. Davidson’s single to lead off the visitor’s half of the ensuing stanza produced the only baserunner for either team in the fourth frame.
The top of the fifth inning got underway when Demperio drew a walk and swiped second. A May triple scored the Georgia shortstop and a Poythress single plated the Bulldog third baseman. Massanari’s subsequent base hit moved the Red and Black first baseman over to third, thereby enabling Lewis to bring Poythress home on a double-play ball before Matt Chaffee came on in place of Guilmet and extracted the final out from Allen.
The Cats had an answer for the Dogs in the home half of the stanza. Although Dwight Childs led off by striking out, an error by Taylor permitted Hunter Pace to reach first base, which was all the opening Arizona required. Valenzuela singled to right field to move the Wildcat center fielder to third, and, although the hometown second baseman was caught stealing, an Ortega single and a Coyle double scored a pair of unearned runs. By the time Glenn struck out to end a three-hit, two-run frame, Georgia had one more error (1-0), one more hit (7-6), and one more run (5-4) than Arizona.
It was not altogether clear, however, whether the Red and Black also had one more night.
Hyams’s leadoff bunt single in the top of the sixth inning was erased when Taylor reached on the fielder’s choice that sent his fellow baserunner back to the dugout. Cory Burns was called in from the bullpen and the Georgia center fielder promptly stole on him before taking third on a balk. Demperio drew a base on balls to put two aboard for May, who chased strike three.
Poythress’s subsequent single notched another run before Massanari hit into the fielder’s choice that ended the visitors’ turn at the plate with the Red and Black holding a 6-4 lead. In the hope of protecting that advantage, David Perno sent Will Harvil in to succeed Holder, who had gone five frames, faced 22 batters, recorded five strikeouts, conceded six hits and one walk, and been charged with two earned runs.
After Harvil retired the first batter he faced in the bottom of the stanza, Selsky reached on a fielding error by May. A Jett Bandy flyout advanced the Wildcat right fielder to third, at which point Daniel Butler took Childs’s spot in the batting order. The Georgia reliever sneaked a called third strike by the Arizona pinch hitter to strand Selsky 90 feet away from home plate.
Lewis drew a base on balls to begin the visitors’ turn at bat in the seventh canto, which was negated when Davidson hit into a double play. This did not deter the Diamond Dogs, who cobbled together a run out of an Allen single, a Hyams walk, and a Taylor base hit. Demperio fanned to conclude the inning, but the Classic City Canines now held a 7-4 edge.
The bottom of the frame was not without its dramatics, as Valenzuela sent a one-out single into center field, but Ortega reached on the fielder’s choice that retired the Arizona second baseman and Coyle swung at strike three after the Georgia hurling duties devolved upon Justin Earls. This brought the Bulldogs back up to bat, and, after May grounded out to get the eighth stanza underway, a throwing error by Bandy put Poythress aboard.
The ensuing walk by Massanari put two men on with one man out for Adam Fuller, who belted out a triple to score one earned run and one unearned run. That marked the end of the line for Burns, who was succeeded on the mound by Joe Allison. The new Wildcat hurler struck out Davidson but surrendered a two-run shot to right field to Allen before inducing Hyams to ground out and end the inning.
Now down 11-4, the Wildcats came up to the plate in the bottom of the frame and undertook to do something to address their predicament. Glenn punched a leadoff double into left center field and took third base on a wild pitch. Baird scored him with a single to cut into the deficit but Selsky popped up and Bandy sent a double play ball to third base, thus keeping the visitors’ advantage at six runs.
Cody Lewis took over the pitching responsibilities for the Wildcats in the top of the ninth inning and his tenure on the hill consisted of coaxing a trio of consecutive groundouts from Taylor, Demperio, and Miles Starr in succession. The Diamond Dogs likewise began the bottom of the stanza with a switch on the mound by sending Cecil Tanner to close out the contest, but the Red and Black reliever issued a free pass to Butler to open his stay at the center of the diamond.
Despite the rocky start, he’s still the finest Tanner to play the national pastime since the star of the Bad News Bears.
Tanner responded to this adversity by striking out Shaun Cooper and Valenzuela in back-to-back at-bats, although the latter whiff also coincided with a wild pitch which allowed Butler to move into scoring position. Perhaps just to keep things interesting (a la Joshua Fields), Tanner walked Ortega before persuading Coyle to end the contest with a groundout.
This was the game that gave Georgia baseball fans a reason to believe the Diamond Dogs’ 5-0 start was not a chimera. After Trevor Holder carded a quality start, the bullpen allowed only one earned run in four innings’ worth of work. Leadoff hitter Johnathan Taylor and cleanup hitter Rich Poythress each went two for five and both Bryce Massanari and Lyle Allen had two for four nights, as well.
Arizona was not exactly shut down offensively---Rafael Valenzuela and Bobby Coyle each went three for five---but the Wildcats scored more than one run in an inning only once. Whereas the visitors posted a three-run fifth frame and a four-run eighth canto, the home team never scored more than two runs in a single stanza. Georgia kept up the pressure, scoring nine runs in the last five innings.
Going on the road with a young team and putting up eleven runs and 13 hits on a Pac-10 squad is a real achievement. While it remains to be seen whether the Diamond Dogs can keep up this pace in the next two games against the Wildcats, their success on Friday evening suggests that the Red and Black’s hot start had more to do with their being good than with the opposition being bad.