Sometimes, you have to take one for the team. For me, this was one of those days . . . but I’ll be getting to that anon. For now, just know that squarebush was right: on Friday, Matt Cerione notched a run-scoring hit in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game against Arkansas to produce a 4-3 victory for the Diamond Dogs, and, on Saturday, Cerione treated us to a repeat performance.
There, too, I am getting ahead of myself, though, so let me begin at the beginning. Alex McRee was on the mound in the top of the first frame and he retired the first three batters he faced. Cerione and Colby May carded consecutive singles up the middle to start off the bottom of the canto, but Rich Poythress flied out and Bryce Massanari grounded into a double play to keep the contest scoreless.
Andy Wilkins became the first Razorback baserunner by being plunked with one out away in the visitors’ half of the second stanza and the Arkansas infielder subsequently stole second. Collin Kuhn advanced him to third on a groundout but a Brett Eibner flyout stranded Wilkins. Georgia went three up and three down in the bottom of the inning.
The Hogs generated the outing’s first run in the top of the third frame on a one-out double by James McCann followed by an R.B.I. single from Chase Leavitt. After the Razorback right fielder swiped second, the next two Arkansas batters recorded outs. Levi Hyams was plunked at the outset of the home half of the stanza, but a Michael Demperio flyout and a Cerione double-play ball kept the Red and Black operating at a 1-0 deficit.
Arkansas leadoff hitter Chase Leavitt went two for three with an R.B.I. and a pair of walks on Saturday, which no doubt provoked wild sideline gesticulations from fellow members of the Leavitt family.
The Razorbacks went back to work in the top of the fourth canto. Tom Hauskey led off with a base hit and Wilkins drew a walk before a Kuhn sacrifice and a McRee error allowed an unearned run to cross home plate. Eibner’s ensuing base on balls added another baserunner, but a Tim Carver strikeout and a McCann double-play ball limited the damage.
Trailing 2-0, the Diamond Dogs got a man aboard in the bottom of the inning when May was hit by a pitch. A Poythress flyout and a Massanari fielder’s choice left the home team with two men out and one man on for Lyle Allen, who dropped a single into right field. Joey Lewis grounded out to render that hit harmless.
Leavitt led off the upper half of the fifth frame with a base hit up the middle, but the Razorback right fielder was caught stealing and the next two Arkansas batters notched only outs. The Classic City Canines went three up and three down in the bottom of the inning.
Once a two-out walk was issued to Kuhn in the top of the sixth stanza, Will Harvil was sent on in relief of McRee. Although the baserunner succeeded in stealing second, the batter popped up to strand him. This left the door open for the Diamond Dogs to tie the ballgame in the bottom of the canto, when Poythress followed up a one-out double by May with a two-run shot to left field. While Allen later reached base on a wild pitch, the Red and Black were unable to take the lead.
Razorback shortstop Scott Lyons went five at-bats without a hit or a walk in the second series game at Foley Field, prompting Zuba to declare that he was "not a real lion." (Not pictured: Scott’s hat of shame.)
Michael Palazzone took over the hurling responsibilities in the top of the seventh inning, when Leavitt’s two-out walk was all the Hogs had to show for their turn at the plate. Johnathan Taylor led off the home half of the canto with a double down the left field line. Hyams sacrificed him over to third and, after Demperio grounded out, Cerione doubled to plate the go-ahead run. May grounded out to end the two-hit, one-run frame.
Arkansas added only one hit in the visitors’ half of the eighth canto, but it was consequential, as Wilkins belted a two-out home run to tie the game anew. Georgia attempted to answer in the bottom of the inning, starting when Poythress singled up the middle and took second on a wild pitch, but Massanari flied out and Allen grounded out before Lewis walked to put runners at the corners. Taylor reached on the fielder’s choice that ended the threat.
Dean Weaver was sent in for the top of the ninth frame. He struck out Eibner, surrendered a single to Carver, and coaxed a flyout from Jacob House before the baserunner stole second and took third on a Massanari throwing error. Weaver walked Leavitt deliberately to get to Scott Lyons, from whom he extracted a flyout. This set the stage for Cerione’s heroics in the bottom of the stanza after Chase Davidson drew a one-out walk. The Georgia center fielder sent a double down the right field line to bring home the winning run, and, for the second consecutive day, the Diamond Dogs claimed a 4-3 victory over Arkansas.
The pitching staff surrendered two earned runs, Matt Cerione (3 for 5, 2 R.B.I.) and Rich Poythress (2 for 4, 2 R.B.I.) generated just enough offense, and I, while following the game on the live stat update available at the Georgia athletics website, leapt up in celebration at the game-deciding score and drew blood by scraping my knuckles on the ridged translucent cover of the fluorescent light fixture in the drop ceiling of my basement. I don’t mind, though; any day the Diamond Dogs out-hit a successful conference opponent by a 9-6 margin and emerge victorious despite committing a pair of errors, it’s a good day, and, hey, sometimes, you have to blog hurt.