Following the Friday night victory over Mississippi State that evened the Diamond Dogs’ S.E.C. record at 2-2, Georgia welcomed the Western Division Bulldogs for the second outing of a three-game set at Foley Field on Saturday. The Red and Black clinched the series victory with a 4-0 win before the largest crowd in stadium history to notch the best home start (13-0) ever for Georgia.
Alex McRee made his first weekend start since returning from a bout with mononucleosis, and, although he began by surrendering a leadoff single to Grant Hogue and walking Jet Butler in the top of the first frame, he also struck out the next two M.S.U. batters. One of the baserunners was caught stealing to record the final out of the inning. The Classic City Canines were retired in sequence on a lineout, a pop-up, and a strikeout in the bottom of the canto.
Nick Hardy walked at the outset of the visitors’ half of the second stanza and, after Jarrod Parks went down swinging, Ryan Powers smacked a single to right field to put runners at the corners. A walk drawn by Connor Powers loaded the bases for Ryan Collins, who grounded into an inning-ending double play. Rich Poythress’s leadoff single in the bottom of the frame likewise was nullified when Bryce Massanari sent a double-play ball to short. Joey Lewis thereafter struck out to wrap up a second straight scoreless canto.
The first Mississippi State batter of the frame got on board for the third consecutive stanza in the top of the third inning, when Hogue recorded a base hit and swiped second. After Butler struck out swinging, the M.S.U. center fielder stole third, as well. Russ Sneed and Cody Freeman drew consecutive walks to load the bases once more, but the next two visiting batters registered outs.
Mississippi State second baseman Jet Butler went hitless in four at-bats on Saturday, but, when asked afterwards by the news media how it felt to have notched three strikeouts, he said, "Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn."
After no Georgia batter made it as far as first base in the home half of the inning, Collins drew a two-out walk in the top of the fourth frame. A Hogue single moved him over to third and the Mississippi State center fielder stole second to put two men in scoring position for Butler, but the visiting second baseman stared at a called third strike.
A two-out double by Colby May was all the Red and Black had to show for the bottom of the stanza and Michael Palazzone ascended the hill at the start of the fifth inning. Hardy drew a two-out walk in the top of the canto, but Parks went down swinging to keep the contest scoreless at the halfway point.
After Massanari struck out to begin the bottom of the frame, Lewis sent a solo shot to left field to break the deadlock and stake the hometown Bulldogs to what would prove to be an insurmountable 1-0 advantage. Chase Davidson subsequently walked, but the baserunner was caught stealing and Michael Demperio struck out to keep the Classic City Canines from padding their lead.
Collins dropped a two-out double into center field in the top of the sixth canto and Hogue thereafter was hit by a pitch, but Butler struck out to strand them both. No Athenian advanced out of the batter’s box in the bottom of the frame and no player for either team made it to first base in the seventh stanza.
Mississippi State left fielder Nick Hardy failed to get a hit in Athens on Saturday, although, in his defense, he and his brother had been out late on Friday night helping Nancy Drew crack a daunting case and solve a vexing mystery.
Will Harvil took over in the top of the eighth frame and the only visiting hitter to reach base did so on account of a Georgia fielding error. In the bottom of the inning, however, Lewis led off with a double and Johnathan Taylor sacrificed him over to third. Following Demperio’s ensuing groundout, Levi Hyams walked and Lyle Allen drove a three-run shot to right field. Matt Cerione flied out in the next at-bat, but the writing was on the wall now that the Diamond Dogs held a 4-0 edge.
Dean Weaver took care of business in the top of the ninth canto, eliciting two groundouts and a flyout from the trio of M.S.U. batters he faced to continue the trend of only playing eight and a half frames in outings hosted in Athens.
The hits were even at five per side, although four of Mississippi State’s hits came in the first four frames---all four of them were singles---and four of Georgia’s hits came in the last five stanzas. M.S.U. starter Nick Routt pitched a complete game, striking out eight and walking only two, but he surrendered four earned runs in the last four innings.
Between them, leadoff hitter Peter Verdin, cleanup hitter Rich Poythress, and designated hitter Bryce Massanari went one for eight, drew no walks, and batted in no runs. In order to win a conference game with that kind of production, you need your pitching staff to give you nine innings of shutout ball, notching 14 strikeouts and conceding only five hits . . . which is what Georgia got. While we hope the bats will awaken anew, I don’t have any problem in the world winning a pitchers’ duel to clinch an S.E.C. series victory.