Following series-clinching wins on Friday and Saturday, the Diamond Dogs went for the sweep over Arkansas on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, the Red and Black lost a pitchers’ duel between the evenly-matched teams, as the Hogs’ 2-0 victory knotted the combined series scoring at eight runs per side over the course of the three-game set.
The Sunday starting assignment belonged to Justin Grimm, who retired each of the three visiting batters he faced in the top of the first canto. Colby May drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the stanza and advanced to second on a Rich Poythress groundout before being stranded when Bryce Massanari went down swinging.
Andy Wilkins led off the visitors’ half of the second frame with a base hit to right field, but Jacob House struck out and Collin Kuhn hit into a double play to end the inning. The home half of the stanza got underway when Lyle Allen drew a leadoff walk and stole second base, but the next three Georgia batters recorded outs.
The Hogs went three up and three down in the upper half of the third canto, but Matt Cerione sent a one-out double down the left field line in the bottom of the frame to card the first Georgia hit of the afternoon. May notched the out that moved the baserunner over to third, but Poythress stared at a called third strike to keep the contest scoreless.
Arkansas designated hitter Jacob House was held without a hit in three at-bats on Sunday, in a game during which he struck out twice. Also, he has an abrasive personality and there are rumors that his medical skill is impaired by a pill-popping problem.
The Razorbacks were retired on a flyout, a lineout, and a groundout in the top of the fourth stanza and the Diamond Dogs registered three straight flyouts in the bottom of the inning. The visitors’ half of the fifth frame was a virtual repeat of the same portion of the second canto, as Wilkins walked to lead off the inning, House recorded an out, and Kuhn hit into a double play. The Red and Black went three up and three down in the home half of the stanza.
Arkansas made its move in the top of the sixth canto, when Zack Cox led off with a single and Jarrod McKinney reached on a Levi Hyams error. James McCann sacrificed the runners over and Chase Leavitt’s subsequent double plated a pair of runs. Scott Lyons flied out to advance the Razorback center fielder to third, but Ben Tschepikow grounded out to end the two-hit, two-run frame.
The Classic City Canines failed to produce a baserunner in the home half of the inning and the Hogs notched a trio of strikeouts in the top of the seventh stanza. The Red and Black were set down in sequence in the bottom of the canto. Jeff Walters came on in relief of Grimm in the upper half of the eighth frame and he extracted three outs from the three batters he faced.
The hit drought continued in the bottom of the stanza when no Diamond Dog reached base. After Walters retired the side in order in the visitors’ half of the ninth inning, the eleventh-hour hero of the previous two outings came up to the plate to lead off the home team’s turn at bat in the bottom of the canto.
Don’t look for a happy ending, because it isn’t coming. Peter Davison won’t show up at the end and say that there should have been another way, either, but that would have been appropriate.
Cerione did his part by drawing a walk to bring the tying run to the plate, but May and Poythress each flied out in the next two at-bats. After the Bulldog baserunner advanced to second, Massanari flied out to end the game.
As frustrating as it was to see the Diamond Dogs held scoreless, we knew going in that Arkansas was a solid squad and the goal of the weekend was to win the series, which Georgia did. Brett Eibner pitched nine innings, striking out twelve and walking three in the course of throwing a one-hit shutout. Although Justin Grimm pitched well (six strikeouts, one walk, three hits, and one earned run in seven innings’ worth of work), there’s a limit to what you can do when your leadoff hitter goes one for three with a walk and thereby earns the distinction of being your team’s best batter.
Sunday’s outcome lifted the Razorbacks to 11-6 in S.E.C. play and dropped the Diamond Dogs to 13-5 against league competition. L.S.U.’s series loss to Tennessee sent the Fighting Tigers to 11-7 and Florida fell to 10-8 in conference action with a series setback to Ole Miss (11-7). No one is getting through the Southeastern Conference unscathed and the Red and Black are in as good a position as anyone to finish in first place.
Losing is never fun, but it happens. Sweeps are nice but series victories are vital, so shake off Sunday’s setback and turn your attention to Georgia’s midweek outings against Kennesaw State and Jacksonville State, which should serve to tune up the Classic City Canines before their huge road trip to Oxford next weekend.