A reeling Georgia baseball team welcomed Auburn to Foley Field for the start of a three-game set on Friday night. The contest was critical for both teams, representing the SEC opener for each, and the visiting Plainsmen snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Diamond Dogs by dealing the Classic City Canines another lopsided defeat in a season that already has seen too many blowouts in the wrong direction.
The only hit by either team in the initial inning was a two-out home run by Peter Verdin in the bottom of the first frame to give the home team a 1-0 lead. That advantage evaporated in the top of the second stanza, beginning with consecutive singles to lead off the canto and continuing with the sacrifice that advanced both baserunners.
A base hit by Dan Gamache plated a pair of runs, and, after a strikeout and a stolen base, Ryan Jenkins sent a single into center field to score another. An additional hit and an error by Levi Hyams loaded the bases for Hunter Morris, who popped up to keep the visitors’ lead at 3-1.
A solo shot by Colby May with two outs away in the bottom of the inning cut the Tigers’ edge to a lone run, but the Plainsmen again countered in the upper half of the ensuing canto. A walk, a base hit, and a balk put two men in scoring position with no one out, allowing Tony Caldwell to bring a run home on a sacrifice fly.
That marked the end of the line for Michael Palazzone. The Georgia starter was relieved by Chase Hawkins, who surrendered an RBI single but otherwise extracted the requisite outs despite a Todd Hankins miscue. The Bulldogs came up to the plate having carded two runs, two hits, and two errors, but all they had to show for the bottom of the third stanza was a two-out single by Johnathan Taylor.
The Plainsmen went right back to work in their half of the fourth frame. A leadoff walk followed by a double put two men in scoring position and a one-out sacrifice fly pushed another run across. The Red and Black had no such luck in the bottom of the canto, when a Robert Shipman walk and a Brett DeLoach single were squandered when Christian Glisson grounded into a double play and May went down swinging.
The Alabamians went three up and three down in the visitors’ half of the fifth inning and the Athenians generated only a two-out Zach Cone single in the home half of the frame. A hit batsman in the leadoff spot and a one-out Morris home run padded the Orange and Blue advantage by another pair of runs in the top of the sixth stanza before a pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases for Gamache. After the Auburn third baseman struck out, Justin Bryant doubled to plate three runs and bring Malcolm Clapsaddle in from the bullpen.
After the evening’s second reliever extracted a pop-up from Jenkins, the Bulldogs went quietly in their turn at the plate. Consecutive singles and a home run to start the top of the seventh stanza yielded three more Tiger runs before the Classic City Canines collected the requisite outs. The Red and Black were retired in the bottom of the frame on a flyout, a groundout, and a strikeout.
The visitors’ half of the eighth canto commenced with a leadoff single and a two-run shot to left field. The next three Plainsmen recorded outs, as did the first two Georgia batters in the home half of the stanza. A base on balls and a hit batsman put two men on for Shipman, who swung at strike three. The ninth inning opened with three straight singles, and, although Justin Fradejas grounded into a double play, one run scored.
A Gamache single plated another and a Bryant home run brought in two more before the third out was registered. The Tigers held an insurmountable lead, and, thanks to a pair of one-out errors, a Hyams singled scored an unearned run, but it was too little to late, as Kevin Ruiz grounded into a double play in the ensuing plate appearance.
This outing stunk in every facet. The Diamond Dogs ran stinky, hit stinky, threw stinky, fielded stinky, and stunk for power. Starting pitcher Michael Palazzone faced fifteen batters and allowed five earned runs, while the bullpen conceded fifteen runs, all of them earned. Leadoff hitter Zach Cone, cleanup hitter Robert Shipman, and designated hitter Brett DeLoach collectively went two for ten with no RBI and one walk. Auburn scored in seven of the last eight innings and Georgia was held without a run in six of the final seven frames.
Before the game, Plainsman Parking Lot told me he was frustrated with the number of runs Auburn had given up with two outs, and Friday’s contest bore out that frustration. Four of the Bulldogs’ six hits, including both home runs, were registered after the second out had been secured. The Classic City Canines, on the other hand, were more generous in offering up opportunities: Georgia committed errors in the second and third innings, surrendered leadoff singles in the second, seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, gave up leadoff walks in the third and fourth innings, and plunked the initial batter in the sixth inning.
After dropping five straight by lopsided margins, the Diamond Dogs won back-to-back games last Friday and Saturday before losing one-run games on Sunday and Tuesday. Any hope that this represented progress was dashed in Athens on Friday night. This club does nothing consistently well and no aspect of this outing offered so much as a shred of hope for the remainder of the 2010 campaign.