After the first scheduled series meeting between the in-state rivals was rained out, the Diamond Dogs finally squared off with the Ramblin’ Wreck at Foley Field on Tuesday night. The result was not to my liking, as Georgia Tech prevailed by an 11-6 margin in a game that lacked redeeming social value of any sort.
Chase Hawkins drew the starting assignment against the Yellow Jackets, and, although he began the top of the first frame by extracting a pop-up from Jeff Rowland in the leadoff spot, the Georgia hurler surrendered a single up the middle to Derek Dietrich and conceded a two-run blast to center field off the bat of Jason Haniger. Luke Murton later added a two-out base hit before Matt Skole flied out to end the three-hit, two-run canto.
Colby May sent a one-out single into center field and Rich Poythress drew a walk in the bottom of the stanza. After Bryce Massanari swung at strike three, Joey Lewis walked to load the bases for Chase Davidson, who grounded out to strand three. The Golden Tornado were not similarly accommodating in the visitors’ half of the second inning, in which Chris House carded a one-out base hit and Connor Winn followed that up with a walk.
Rowland’s ensuing triple plated two and Dietrich lifted a sacrifice fly into right field to score the Georgia Tech center fielder. Haniger’s ensuing double went to waste when Tony Plagman grounded out to put a three-hit, three-run frame in the books. Down 5-0, the Red and Black undertook to answer in the bottom of the stanza, starting with a leadoff walk by Zach Cone. Michael Demperio put one out to left field to cut the deficit to 5-2. May’s subsequent two-out single was squandered when Poythress grounded out to third base.
Since our North Avenue neighbors like to portray us in a particular light deemed by them to be unflattering, I’d like to point out that they’re the ones with a third baseman named after a smokeless tobacco product!
Jason Leaver took over in the top of the third canto but fared no better, giving up a leadoff single to Murton before plunking Skole. A Cole Leonida home run plated three and House tacked on a base hit before the Bulldog reliever induced Winn to fly out and persuaded Rowland to line into a double play. At the halfway point of the third inning, Georgia Tech led 9-3 in hits and 8-2 in runs.
Those ratios remained unchanged in the home half of the frame, in which the Red and Black were retired on a flyout, a strikeout, and a groundout. David Perno turned to Jeff Walters to pitch the top of the fourth inning and the latest Georgia hurler appeared to have figured out the Golden Tornado, as Walters set down the side in sequence. Levi Hyams’s two-out single in the bottom of the canto marked the only Bulldog at-bat of the stanza not to have ended in a groundout.
An error by Demperio enabled Skole to reach base with one out away in the top of the fifth frame, and, after Leonida flied out, Thomas Nichols drew the walk that put two men aboard. A wild pitch advanced both baserunners but Winn grounded out to keep the Yellow Jackets from building further either on their 9-4 lead in hits or on their 8-2 advantage in runs. The Diamond Dogs went three up and three down in the home half of the inning.
Justin Earls assumed the hurling responsibilities in the upper half of the sixth stanza and he walked the first batter with whom he crossed paths. The baserunner swiped second once Dietrich went down swinging, took third on a Haniger single, and came home on a base hit by Plagman before Murton grounded into a double play.
Ramblin’ Wreck shortstop Derek Dietrich went one for four and batted in a run on Tuesday. Oddly enough, she also played a saloon girl opposite Jimmy Stewart in the late 1930s.
Lewis got back the latest run the Red and Black had conceded by sending a solo shot to left center field in the bottom of the canto. Davidson’s ensuing strikeout was followed by a Cone single, but Demperio struck out and the Georgia center fielder was caught stealing to keep the Classic City Canines from creeping any closer to their guests than an 11-6 deficit in hits and a 9-3 disadvantage in runs.
Cecil Tanner took over on the mound in the top of the seventh inning and immediately walked Skole, who took second on a wild pitch. Fortunately, the Georgia reliever struck out the next three Georgia Tech batters. Hyams began the home half of the frame with a home run and Johnathan Taylor followed that up with a base hit up the middle.
After a Yellow Jacket pitching switch, the late-arriving Bulldog hit parade continued. May singled to put runners at the corners. Poythress walked to load the bases. Massanari singled to bring home a run. Lewis popped up with three men on and no one out before the Ramblin’ Wreck went to their third hurler of the canto. Davidson stepped into the batter’s box representing both the tying hit and the tying run, but he struck out swinging, and so did Cone. Three baserunners were stranded to preserve Georgia Tech’s leads in hits (11-10) and runs (9-5).
Will Harvil handled the pitching duties in the top of the eighth frame and the two-out single he conceded to Haniger was erased when Plagman flied out to left field. Taylor’s two-out single in the bottom of the stanza was followed by a May walk and a Golden Tornado pitching change, after which Poythress reached on an inning-ending fielder’s choice.
Georgia Tech closer Zach Brewster pitched two-thirds of an inning, faced two batters, and struck out both, but that still doesn’t overcome the fact that he is the namesake of the worst movie either Richard Pryor or John Candy ever made.
Michael Palazzone was sent to the hill in the top of the ninth canto and he hit Murton with a pitch before serving up a home run ball to Skole. After Nichols sent a one-out single into left field and took second on a wild pitch, Palazzone was relieved and succeeded by Steve Esmonde, who allowed the Georgia Tech left fielder to move over to third on another wild pitch before extracting a groundout from Rowland.
Massanari led off the home half of the inning with a home run to left field and Davidson tacked on a one-out double. A wild pitch advanced the baserunner to third, but the next two Bulldog batters struck out to conclude an embarrassing outing at Foley Field in which the Classic City Canines were out-hit by the North Avenue Nerds by a slim 14-13 margin yet fell by five runs despite outscoring the Yellow Jackets in the final six stanzas.
Listen, I don’t like this any better than you do, but it happens. In a midweek game in which the Diamond Dogs use eight pitchers and the other team fields five hurlers, virtually anything can happen. More particularly, we pull this kind of crap against Georgia Tech all the time. We let the Yellow Jackets batter us into submission in the regular season a year ago, too, but it didn’t make a bit of difference when it counted.
I hate to say it, because I want every game to matter, especially against a hated rival, but, truly, this is no more consequential than the Wright State loss, so forget about it. The lessons of this loss are these: first of all, you can’t give up eight runs in the first three innings and expect to win a baseball game; secondly, you can’t strand six baserunners in the last three innings and expect to win a baseball game; and, finally and most importantly, the Diamond Dogs resume S.E.C. play against Arkansas in Athens on Friday night. That’s a game that will matter; this was merely an annoyance that stings briefly but ultimately is harmless, as befits an opponent with an insect for a mascot.