Although my efforts to get the skinny on the Diamond Dogs’ Saturday evening outing initially proved fruitless, I eventually figured it out, but I wished I hadn’t: David Perno’s Classic City Canines got rocked by a Duke squad that notched nine runs on 14 hits against the Red and Black after having earlier in the day surrendered a late lead in a loss to Baylor.
Senior Jeff Walters got the start for the Bulldogs and he didn’t have an awful evening, as the Georgia hurler surrendered six hits and three earned runs while walking one and striking out a career-high seven. Nevertheless, the Blue Devils jumped on him early, as the initial inning got underway with an infield single by Eric Brady, a four-pitch base on balls drawn by Mike Carroll, a Jake Lemmerman strikeout, and back-to-back-to-back base hits by Jeremy Gould, Will Piwnica-Worms, and Dennis O’Grady. By the time Gabriel Saade grounded into a double play, Duke held a 3-0 lead.
A leadoff walk by sophomore Johnathan Taylor was all the Diamond Dogs had to show for the home half of the first frame and the Blue Devils carded a trio of strikeouts in the top of the second stanza. The Red and Black got on the board with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the canto, but sophomore Zach Cone’s solo shot gave Georgia its only score of the inning. Redshirt freshman Kevin Ruiz walked on four straight pitches and found himself on third base with only one out, but freshman Todd Hankins and Taylor both registered first-pitch outs.
Duke again went three up and three down in the visitors’ half of the third canto before sophomore Peter Verdin led off the bottom of the stanza with a home run. Cone’s two-out triple went to waste when Ruiz turned the first pitch he saw into a groundout. No Blue Devil reached base in the upper half of the fourth frame and Georgia opened the bottom of the inning with consecutive flyouts before a fielding error, a stolen base, and a single plated a game-tying unearned run.
A pair of one-out singles in the top of the fifth canto failed to break the deadlock due to Lemmerman’s ining-ending strikeout, so a trio of two-out singles brought Cone home before freshman Kyle Farmer’s first-pitch flyout kept the Red and Black from padding their one-run lead. A one-out Taylor double in the bottom of a scoreless sixth stanza marked the only hit by either team in the frame.
Bulldog junior Ben Cornwell began the seventh inning by surrendering, in succession, a single to Marcus Stroman, a sacrifice bunt to Brian Litwin, and base hits to Brady, Carroll, and Lemmerman. This gave the Blue Devils two runs, caused the Classic City Canines to lose the lead, and required that sophomore Evan Tieles be brought in from the bullpen to record the last out in his first appearance for the Athenians. Georgia went hitless in the bottom of the canto.
Consecutive singles by Saade and Stroman to start the upper half of the eighth inning resulted in the dispatching of freshman Malcolm Clapsaddle to the mound and the Red and Black reliever promptly threw the wild pitch that scored a Duke run. Following a strikeout, Clapsaddle threw another wild pitch to allow Stroman to take third and enable Brady to bring him home with a sacrifice fly.
Hankins’s one-out single in the bottom of the frame and an ensuing error on a failed pickoff attempt put a Bulldog baserunner on third, so Taylor earned an RBI on a groundout. Verdin’s subsequent single and stolen base were canceled out by sophomore Colby May’s inning-ending flyout. Lemmerman led off the top of the ninth canto with a home run and a one-out walk by Piwnica-Worms followed by an O’Grady single put Saade in a position to score a run on a sacrifice fly that turned into a double-play ball.
Trailing 9-5, the Diamond Dogs showed some fight when Cone dropped a first-pitch double into left center field with one out away in the bottom of the inning. The Georgia outfielder took third on a wild pitch after sophomore Christian Glisson struck out but junior Robbie O’Bryan grounded out to end the game.
It’s too bad Axl Rose didn’t sing the national anthem before this game, because the Red and Black could have use a reminder that all they need is just a little patience. With runners at the corners and only one out in the second inning, back-to-back Georgia batters swung at the first pitch and produced outs in each instance. With a runner on third in the next inning, Ruiz grounded out on the first pitch he saw. With two men aboard in the fifth frame, Farmer flied out on---wait for it---the first pitch he saw. The Athenians left men on base in every single inning while striking out eight times and walking just thrice.
Johnathan Taylor once again did his job in the leadoff spot, going two for four with two RBI, a stolen base, and a walk. Zach Cone homered for the only RBI of his four-for-five day, but he crossed home plate twice and hit for the cycle. The Blue Devils, in the meantime, got two-RBI evenings from Eric Brady (3 for 4), Jake Lemmerman (2 for 5), and Dennis O’Grady (2 for 4).
When a team commits two fewer errors than the opposition, steals a trio of bases, and cards a dozen hits, including two home runs, a triple, and a couple of doubles, that team ought to win a baseball game. However, impatience at the plate by a young Georgia squad turned would-be runs into stranded baserunners, and six earned runs surrendered to the 19 Blue Devil batters faced by a Bulldog bullpen that decreased in class standing with each successive pitching switch made the Red and Black pay for their youthful overeagerness.