After winning big on Friday and barely escaping on Saturday, the Diamond Dogs went for the series sweep over the Stetson Hatters on Sunday. The Red and Black got the win in a contest that was neither as lopsided as the first game nor as nerve-wracking as the second.
The Hatters leapt out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. Spencer Theisen led off with a base hit to center field and stole second. Robert Crews advanced the baserunner with a flyout and Mark Jones brought him home with a two-out single. Neither team would produce another baserunner until Ryan Lashley led off the top of the third canto with a single.
Jeff Simpson notched another base hit in the next at-bat and Theisen sacrificed the runners over to put two men in scoring position. David Perno, wisely (if belatedly) following the advice I yelled at my computer screen on Saturday afternoon, directed Michael Palazzone to issue an intentional walk to Crews and load the bases for Aaron Crittenden. The Stetson designated hitter obligingly grounded into a double play to keep the margin 1-0.
Georgia finally carded a hit in the home half of the third stanza when Kevin Ruiz sent a one-out single into left field. A second Bulldog baserunner got aboard when Johnathan Taylor drew a two-out walk and a free pass inadvertently was issued to Colby May, as well. Peter Verdin flied out to strand three.
The Hatters built on their lead in the upper half of the fourth frame when Jones dropped a leadoff single into center field, swiped a pair of bases, and scored on an error. Consecutive one-out singles put two men aboard for Simpson, whose two-out double plated another run to make it 3-0 for the visitors. The Red and Black finally got on the board in the bottom of the inning when singles by Chase Davidson and Christian Glisson put Zach Taylor in a position to plate a run on a groundout.
Stetson went three up and three down in the top of the fifth canto to carry the contest to its halfway point before the Bulldogs began to take control. Todd Hankins led off the bottom of the inning with a walk, stole second, and came home on a one-out double by May. A Verdin home run plated two more before Zach Cone singled, swiped second, and scored on a base hit by Glisson. The four-hit, four-run frame put Georgia in front to stay.
The side was retired on a flyout, a pop-up, and a groundout in the top of the sixth stanza and the Red and Black went back to work. Four batters into the bottom of the canto, May drew a bases-loaded walk to force home a run and a Verdin sacrifice fly plated another. Justin Earls took over on the mound at the outset of the seventh inning and no Hatter batter made it as far as first base.
Although Glisson singled to center field and advanced as far as third base in the home half of the stanza, the Diamond Dogs did not score again before Stetson came back up to bat in the upper half of the eighth frame to face Ben Cornwell. The latest Georgia hurler gave up back-to-back base hits and an RBI groundout before a pair of strikeouts were secured. The bottom of the inning again saw a Bulldog baserunner make it as far as third base before being stranded to conclude a scoreless canto, so the Classic City Canines turned to Alex McRee to close it out in the visitors’ half of the ninth inning.
Lashley and Simpson both drew bases on balls to begin the concluding canto, but the next two Stetson batters struck out and popped up, respectively. A Crittenden single to right field scored a run to make it 7-5, but, with the go-ahead run standing in the batter’s box, McRee threw the called third strike that clinched the victory.
In three innings of relief, the Georgia bullpen struck out five, walked two, and allowed just three hits and two earned runs. Leadoff hitter Johnathan Taylor, cleanup hitter Chase Davidson, and designated hitter Zach Taylor were fairly well held in check---the trio combined to go two for twelve with one RBI and three strikeouts---but the slack was taken up by Christian Glisson, Colby May, and Peter Verdin, who cumulatively were five for eleven with a half-dozen RIWWB. After sleepwalking through the first three and a half innings, the Diamond Dogs outscored the Hatters 7-2 and again won a game while being out-hit at Foley Field. It would be great to win ‘em all by a lot, but this is a young team that should improve as the year continues, so, for now, merely emerging victorious ought to be enough.