The Diamond Dogs were demolished by Auburn on Friday in perhaps the most embarrassing outing of a season that so far has seen Georgia lose six games by seven or more runs. While the Classic City Canines failed to secure the victory over the Plainsmen on Saturday, they managed to keep it close in a 4-3 loss.
After the first Auburn batter was retired in the top of the opening inning, Creede Simpson reached on a Levi Hyams error and swiped second. A Hunter Morris single and a Justin Grimm wild pitch enabled the Tiger center fielder to score an unearned run.
The Red and Black had only a flyout, a strikeout, and a foulout to show for the bottom of the frame, and the Plainsmen likewise went three up and three down in the visitors’ half of the second stanza. Georgia carded a two-out walk and a subsequent single without effect in the home half of the canto.
The Tigers opened their turn at the plate in the third inning with three straight singles to load the bases before Grimm induced Morris and Brian Fletcher to strike out swinging. Casey McElroy grounded out to preserve the 1-0 score.
Bulldog baserunners got aboard in the bottom of the stanza on a Justin Hargett error, a single, and a hit batsman, but a double-play ball and a strikeout prevented any of them from crossing home plate. Auburn added a pair of runs on a two-out, two-run Ryan Jenkins home run in the top of the fourth frame. The Classic City Canines were set down in sequence in the bottom of the canto.
The fifth inning saw one baserunner per side but no scoring, and the Plainsmen padded their lead in the upper half of the sixth stanza. Tony Caldwell led off with a single, stole second, took third on a groundout, and came home on a sacrifice squeeze bunt. The Bulldogs finally got on the board in the home half of the frame when Johnathan Taylor drew a leadoff walk and Peter Verdin put runners at the corners with a base hit.
Robert Shipman grounded out to plate one run and Colby May singled with two outs to bring home another. Justin Earls took over on the mound at the outset of the seventh inning and he did not allow a baserunner, so the Athenians were able to go back to work. Consecutive singles were followed by consecutive strikeouts before Shipman and Zach Taylor drew back-to-back bases on balls to force home the run that made it 4-3.
Auburn managed only a two-out single in the top of the eighth frame, yet the Red and Black did nothing with their turn at the plate in the bottom of the inning. Cooper Moseley allowed a leadoff single in the visitors’ half of the ninth canto and permitted the baserunner to advance on a wild pitch, but he struck out Jenkins and Alex McRee secured the final two outs.
The Diamond Dogs came up to bat with a chance to pull out the win and Verdin belted a double into center field with two outs away. It appeared that the Plainsmen once again might demonstrate their penchant for giving up runs with only one out needed to get out of the inning, but Shipman went down swinging to end the game with the tying run in scoring position.
Losing is never fun and a third one-run loss in a four-game span is particularly unnerving, but at least the Red and Black had the winning run in the batter’s box at the end of the game. Auburn already has taken the series yet Georgia salvaged at least a shred of dignity in losing a game in which the Classic City Canines trailed by one run, trailed by one hit, and were even in errors.
None of the first five hitters in the Tiger order managed more than one hit and the first seven Plainsmen in the lineup between them batted in no runs. Justin Grimm held the Alabamians to seven hits and three earned runs in six innings on the mound, while the bullpen contributed three scoreless stanzas. The Bulldog hurlers together struck out twelve and walked none.
Unfortunately, a fine Georgia pitching performance was not provided with adequate run support. Robert Shipman struck out twice and Johnathan Taylor struck out thrice. Both teams ended up being reliant on the bottom of the order: Colby May and Todd Hankins, the number seven and number nine hitters, were two of the three Diamond Dogs to go two for four, while all three Auburn RBI were the handiwork of Justin Bryant and Ryan Jenkins, the eighth and ninth batters in the visitors’ lineup.
Georgia looks to avoid the sweep on Sunday afternoon. Saturday’s game offered at least a glimmer of hope that the Diamond Dogs will have a shot at pulling off a victory tomorrow. It isn’t much, but, on this, the first official day of spring, the winter of Bulldog Nation’s discontent continues, so, for now, that will have to do.