I know what you’re thinking. We’re back to this, are we? After dispensing with the Quinnipiacs and the LeMoynes of the college baseball world, the Diamond Dogs finally started playing teams of whom you have heard; viz., Alabama, Georgia State, and Mississippi State. So who the heck is Wright State, and what was Georgia doing playing them at Foley Field on Tuesday afternoon?
Wright State University was established as the Dayton campus of Ohio State and Miami (Ohio) in 1964 before becoming an accredited independent institution in 1967. The Raiders, who play in the Horizon League, arrived in the Classic City sporting a 9-12 overall ledger that included a previous loss in Athens---Athens, Ohio, that is, to Ohio (Ohio)---and they took two out of three from Youngstown State last weekend. The Red and Black, you may recall, swept the Penguins to start the 2009 season.
The Classic City Canines, ranked No. 1 in a pair of polls, sent Chase Hawkins to the mound in the top of the first inning and he struck out the first two batters he faced before walking Casey McGrew. The latter mistake was erased when Jeff Mercer reached on the fielder’s choice that cut down the initial baserunner.
After Matt Cerione fouled out to lead off the bottom of the frame, Chase Davidson drew a base on balls and Rich Poythress drove a home run to right field to make it 2-0 straight out of the gate. A Bryce Massanari single in the ensuing at-bat came to nothing when the next two Bulldog batters recorded outs.
No player for either team made it as far as first base in the second stanza and all the Raiders had to show for the top of the third canto were two singles immediately following a pair of flyouts. Poythress’s two-out base hit in the home half of the inning came in the only at-bat not to produce a flyout.
It all began to come unraveled in the fourth frame. Mercer led off the visitors’ turn at bat with a base hit and Tristan Moore reached base on an error while trying to sacrifice the runner over to second. Garrett Gray put down the bunt that moved two Raiders into scoring position and Jake Hibberd’s bunt single plated a run. When Aaron Fields reached on a fielder’s choice, Moore scored an unearned run and the game was tied.
Cecil Tanner came on in relief of Hawkins and proceeded to give up the single to Kory Twede that loaded the bases for Ryan Ashe, whose groundout pushed the go-ahead run across home plate. After R.J. Gundolff and McGrew drew walks (one of which forced another run home), a balk sent yet another run home and a Mercer single scored two more. By the time Moore grounded out, Wright State had scored seven runs on four hits. The Diamond Dogs had no answer in the bottom of the stanza, in which Georgia went three up and three down.
Fields drew a two-out walk and stole second in the top of the fifth frame, but Twede flied out to strand him there. No Classic City Canine got on base in the bottom of the canto and the Raiders likewise went in order in the visitors’ half of the sixth stanza. The Red and Black went back on the offensive in the bottom of the inning, starting with Poythress’s one-out walk and Massanari’s subsequent two-run shot to center field. A solo home run by Adam Fuller with two outs further cut into the deficit.
Seriously, Wright State’s shortstop is named R.J. Gundolff? R.J. Gundolff?!?! How do you expect me not to make jokes like these when the other team is fielding a shortstop named R.J. Gundolff?
It appeared that a big inning was brewing when Colby May walked and Levi Hyams singled to right field, but Michael Demperio came to the plate representing the go-ahead run and flied out to wrap up a three-hit, three-run turn at bat for the Diamond Dogs. Wright State got back one of those runs in the top of the seventh frame, when Hibberd followed up a two-out Gray single with an R.B.I. triple.
Georgia opened the bottom of the canto with consecutive singles from Zach Cone and Johnathan Taylor, each of whom advanced one base on a passed ball. However, Poythress hit into the fielder’s choice that saw Cone thrown out at home and Massanari grounded into a double play to kill any hope of a rally.
The Raiders carded a pair of hits in the top of the eighth inning, but, when one of the W.S.U. baserunners made it as far as third, Dean Weaver came in and slammed the door by striking out Mercer to keep the score from getting any more out of hand. Fuller’s one-out single in the bottom of the stanza was erased when May grounded into a double play.
Weaver retired the side on a groundout, a flyout, and a strikeout in the top of the ninth canto, necessitating that Foley Field see something that has become unfamiliar to the Bulldog faithful: the bottom of the ninth inning in a game played in Athens.
The first two Georgia batters recorded groundouts, after which Cone gave the hometown crowd a glimmer of hope by drawing a base on balls. The door was quickly slammed shut, however, when Taylor flied out to conclude a disheartening Diamond Dogs loss.
Chase Hawkins struck out three and walked one in a little over three innings’ worth of work, during which time he gave up four hits and four runs but only one earned run. But for Hawkins’s throwing error in the fourth frame, the Red and Black very likely would have gotten the win, as the Raiders were held in check in every other canto.
The Classic City Canines, however, could never get anything going offensively. All five of their runs came on home runs, but the home team was unable to string together a sustained offensive outburst. In a game in which the Red and Black were out-hit 10-9, the few encouraging moments at the plate were delivered by Adam Fuller (2 for 2, 1 R.B.I.), Bryce Massanari (2 for 4, 2 R.B.I.), and Rich Poythress (2 for 3, 2 R.B.I.), who were the only Georgia batters to notch more than one hit.
At the end of the day, this loss is more annoying than anything else. The reason for it is clear enough: Georgia travels to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech on Wednesday night, and there is no question that the Yellow Jackets represent the more important midweek opponent, so I suspect the Diamond Dogs were looking ahead to their next game. It’s baseball; head-scratching losses occur, even in stellar seasons such as this one is shaping up to be. In any case, now we know who the heck Wright State is, don’t we?