After Justin Grimm retired the side in the upper half of the first canto on Sunday, Matt Cerione led off the bottom of the frame with a double. A Colby May single sent the Georgia center fielder to third and a Rich Poythress sacrifice fly brought him home to give the Red and Black a 1-0 lead.
The Gators answered with a solo shot to right field in the top of the second frame, but back-to-back one-out singles by Peter Verdin and Levi Hyams allowed Michael Demperio to put the home team back out in front with a triple down the left field line in the bottom of the inning.
No batter for either team reached base in the third stanza and singles by Preston Tucker in the top of the inning and Verdin in the bottom of the inning were all either squad had to show for the fourth frame. Florida tied the game anew with a pair of singles by Jonathan Pigott and Buddy Munroe, followed by a sacrifice fly from Mike Mooney, in the top of the fifth canto, but the Diamond Dogs retook the lead off of a Cerione home run, a May single, and a two-run shot by Poythress in the home half of the stanza.
When Matt den Dekker reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on a wild pitch in the visitors’ half of the sixth frame, Pigott sent a single into left field to make it a 5-3 ballgame. After each team had a scoreless turn at bat, the Classic City Canines padded their advantage in the home half of the seventh inning, in which Cerione led off with a home run and Poythress turned a single into a run when a passed ball and an Avery Barnes error brought him the rest of the way around to score.
The game appeared well in hand even after the Gators added another run in the top of the eighth canto thanks to singles by Tucker and den Dekker, as the Diamond Dogs carried a 7-4 lead into the top of the ninth inning. The Red and Black had blanked the Saurians in four frames and allowed only one run in each of the others, so Georgia had only to notch three outs before allowing three runs into order to secure the victory that would put the Athenians in a two-way tie atop the Eastern Division.
It was not to be for the team that could not hold a lead over Jacksonville State on Wednesday and could not hold a lead over Florida on Friday. After Munroe led off by striking out, Mooney sent a single into right field. Cecil Tanner was dispatched to the hill to obtain the final two outs, but, instead, he surrendered, in succession, a base hit to Barnes and a walk to Teddy Foster. After a passed ball allowed one run to score, a home run by Tucker gave the Gators their first lead of the day.
The visitors added to their advantage when Josh Adams walked, den Dekker doubled off of Steve Esmonde, and Jerico Weitzel singled to plate a pair of runs. Pigott grounded out and Munroe lined out to close out a five-hit, six-run stanza that put the Red and Black in a 10-7 hole. In the home half of the frame, Joey Lewis flied out, Lyle Allen drove a solo home run to right center field, Johnathan Taylor grounded out, and Hyams stared at strike three to give the Saurians the sweep.
The errors were even at one per side and the hits were deadlocked at 14 apiece. Justin Grimm pitched well enough to win, going six innings in which he struck out five, walked one, and gave up three earned runs on seven hits. The final two-thirds of an inning---during which the last two Georgia hurlers between them faced eight batters, carded no strikeouts, issued two walks, conceded four hits, and allowed five earned runs---were adequately disastrous to undo all the good the Diamond Dogs had done up to that point.
It shouldn’t have been this way. Although Bryce Massanari and Joey Lewis combined to strike out five times and go hitless in nine at-bats, the Red and Black got good production from the top of the order (Matt Cerione, Colby May, and Rich Poythress together went seven for 13 and batted in five runs) and decent enough production from the bottom of the order (Lyle Allen, Peter Verdin, Levi Hyams, and Michael Demperio between them went seven for 17 and batted in two runs).
Mercifully, the Diamond Dogs do not have any midweek games scheduled between now and their final homestand of the season against Vanderbilt next weekend. (The Gators, it should be noted, did not play any midweek games last week, which raises the question why the open date universally acknowledged to be critical to the gridiron series between these two combatants was eschewed by the Classic City Canines prior to their baseball series with the Saurians.) The Red and Black will need the time to regroup if there is to be even the slightest hope of salvaging a season that began with 14 consecutive victories but has disintegrated into six straight setbacks.