With a win on Friday, the Diamond Dogs evened their record in S.E.C. play. By beating the visitors on Saturday, the Red and Black clinched the series victory over Mississippi State. After what had been a low-scoring affair for the first six stanzas morphed into a shootout in the final three cantos, Georgia swept the Western Division Bulldogs with a 10-6 triumph on Sunday afternoon.
The Magnolia State Mutts managed only a foulout, a strikeout, and a flyout against Justin Grimm in the top of the first frame, but Johnathan Taylor drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning. After Peter Verdin drew a base on balls, as well, Rich Poythress lined out and Joey Lewis hit into a double play. Grimm struck out all three batters he faced in the top of the second stanza, whereas Colby May was plunked to begin the home half of the canto.
After Zach Cone reached on a fielder’s choice and Bryce Massanari flied out, the Georgia center fielder stole second, only to be stranded there when Michael Demperio went down swinging. Ryan Powers tried to get something going for the Western Division Bulldogs in the visitors’ half of the third frame, but the M.S.U. shortstop’s leadoff double came to naught despite Grant Hogue’s having been hit by a pitch in the next plate appearance, because Connor Powers stared at a called third strike, the lead runner was cut down while attempting to steal, and Luke Adkins swung at strike three.
Levi Hyams led off the home half of the inning with a base hit to right field, but he was cut down when Taylor hit into a fielder’s choice. Verdin’s ensuing single put two men aboard and Poythress’s subsequent groundout advanced both baserunners. Lewis drew the walk that loaded the bases, but May flied out to keep the contest scoreless.
Ryan Collins began the top of the fourth frame with a walk and the Mississippi State right fielder took second when Russ Sneed was thrown out at first. After Ryan Duffy struck out, Scott DeLoach dropped an R.B.I. single into left field to plate Collins and make it 1-0 in favor of the visiting Bulldogs. Jet Butler thereafter struck out looking.
Massanari attempted to answer with a one-out single in the bottom of the stanza. Although Demperio flied out in the next at-bat, Hyams put one over the wall in right field to stake the Classic City Canines to a 2-1 lead. A subsequent single by Taylor was squandered when Verdin’s bunt attempt produced a groundout. The Mississippians had only a two-out walk to show for the top of the fifth frame.
In the bottom of the canto, Poythress walked to begin the Red and Black’s turn at the plate. Following a Lewis strikeout, May singled to left field. Matt Cerione thereafter went down swinging, but Massanari drew a base on balls to put three men aboard for Demperio, who grounded out to keep the home team’s advantage at a single run.
Duffy dropped a two-out double into left center field in the top of the sixth inning. Once DeLoach followed that up with a walk, Justin Earls was brought in from the bullpen and the Georgia reliever succeeded in extracting a groundout from Butler. Lyle Allen’s two-out single to left field was all the Diamond Dogs had to show for the home half of the frame.
Hogue’s one-out walk and subsequent stolen base in the top of the seventh stanza began a big inning for Mississippi State, as the visiting first baseman’s ensuing double tied the game. After Adkins was plunked, Cecil Tanner took over on the hill and promptly surrendered a base hit to Collins. This put three men aboard for Sneed, who was plunked to force home the go-ahead run.
The hurling responsibilities then devolved upon Steve Esmonde, who conceded a single to Duffy to score one more before striking out DeLoach and coaxing a flyout from Butler to conclude a three-hit, three-run canto. Now trailing 4-2, the Red and Black undertook to claw their way back in the home half of the inning on the strength of the two-out solo shot to left field from the bat of Cerione that cut the M.S.U. club’s lead in half.
Mississippi State got the run back in the visitors’ half of the eighth frame, in which Hogue sent a one-out single into center field and swiped second, from which a base hit by Connor Powers brought him home. Jeff Walters came in at that point and retired the next two batters to bring the home team back up to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning trailing by two runs.
Although Demperio struck out to begin the home half of the canto, the Diamond Dogs’ next trio of plate appearances produced a Hyams single, a Chase Davidson single, and an Allen walk to load the bases for Poythress, whose single to center field plated two runs to tie the game. Lewis singled, as well, to bring home two more and put the Red and Black back out in front. After May flied out, Cerione doubled to tack on an additional run and force Chad Crosswhite from the mound.
O.K., there’s really no joke I can make with the name "Crosswhite" that isn’t horribly offensive, so I’m just going to stick with my old standby and post a picture of Kristin Davis instead.
Greg Houston came in and immediately surrendered a two-run homer to Massanari. Although Demperio went down swinging in the next at-bat, the Classic City Canines had responded with a six-hit, seven-run inning to take a 10-5 lead. The visitors’ half of the ninth canto featured more excitement than any Athenian would have liked---following a leadoff strikeout by Sneed, the next three Mississippi State batters all registered singles---but, although Hogue drew the walk that pushed a run across the plate, his final futile heroics were sandwiched between a pair of Powers strikeouts.
This was exactly the kind of game we wanted to see from the Diamond Dogs. Justin Grimm lasted nearly six innings, during which time he struck out nine while allowing just three hits and only one earned run. Georgia played errorless baseball in the field while out-hitting the opposition by a 14-11 margin. The hometown Bulldogs outscored the visiting Bulldogs 2-1 in the first six innings and 8-5 in the last three stanzas.
Georgia’s Matt Cerione (2 for 3), Levi Hyams (3 for 4), Joey Lewis (1 for 4), Bryce Massanari (2 for 4), and Rich Poythress (1 for 4) batted in two runs apiece. Mississippi State’s Jet Butler (1 for 5), Ryan Collins (1 for 4), Scott DeLoach (2 for 4), Ryan Duffy (3 for 5), Connor Powers (2 for 4), Ryan Powers (1 for 5), and Russ Sneed (0 for 4) struck out twice each.
Good starting pitching. Flawless fielding. Resilience in the face of adversity. The ability to break out a big inning when the need arises. An S.E.C. series sweep. All in all, I’d say it wasn’t a bad Sunday afternoon’s worth of work for the Classic City Canines.