I don’t want to oversell the point, but the Diamond Dogs came into Wednesday afternoon’s game with the Furman Paladins as a team in need of FEMA. The Red and Black were an absolute disaster, sporting the SEC’s highest earned run average and the league’s lowest on-base percentage with nine straight losses to teams other than Siena. David Perno says Georgia just isn’t good and David Hale gives the Classic City Canines the thumbs down. I was this close to covering the softball game, instead. I should have gone with my first instinct, because an awful season got even worse this afternoon.
Neither team produced a baserunner in the first frame, so J.B. Jenkins’s two-out double in the top of the second stanza marked the first hit for either squad. Like Zach Cone’s one-out single in the bottom of the inning, though, it went for naught when the rest of the order generated only outs. Accordingly, Dylan Cole’s leadoff home run in the top of the third canto gave the Paladins the early lead.
Furman pressed its advantage when Jake Kline dropped a base hit into center field and took second on a wild pitch. Will Muzika’s one-out home run made it 3-0. In spite of Carson Schilling’s leadoff single in the bottom of the third inning and Colby May’s leadoff walk and Cone’s ensuing single in the home half of the fourth frame, that score remained unchanged until the upper half of the fifth canto, when a walk, a single, and a pair of stolen bases enabled Muzika to bring a run home with a groundout.
The Red and Black had only a couple of two-out singles to show for their turn at the plate in the fifth frame, but the Paladins used a single, an error, and a double to tack on an additional run in the top of the sixth stanza. Georgia at long last responded in the lower half of the canto when Cone led off with a home run.
No other Bulldog batter accomplished anything and Furman broke the game wide open in the seventh inning, turning three singles and two doubles into five runs. The Red and Black offered a retort in the bottom of the canto when a Zach Taylor double and a Peter Verdin single scored one run and a bases-loaded Robert Shipman walk forced home another.
Two walks and a base hit were the sum total of the two teams’ production in the eighth frame and a two-out foulout stranded a runner on third in the top of the ninth stanza to provide the Athenians with their final opportunity. To their credit, the Classic City Canines did not go gentle into that good night.
Levi Hyams led off with a double and May sent a two-run shot to left field. Cone followed that up with a homer of his own to right field. A Shipman single was erased when Chase Davidson reached on a fielder’s choice but Christian Glisson went yard to even the hits at fourteen per side and bring two more runs home. A Nick Karow error enabled Cooper Moseley to get aboard and make it all the way to third. Johnathan Taylor plated him with a single but was out at second when Verdin hit into a fielder’s choice.
With the score now standing at 10-9 in favor of the visitors, the Paladins switched pitchers and the new Furman hurler promptly threw the wild pitch that allowed the Bulldog baserunner to move into scoring position. Needing only a base hit to force extra innings, Hyams flied out to negate the valiant comeback and render the defeat exquisitely more excruciating.
The deceptive six-hit, six-run closing canto made this one look closer than it was. Zach Cone’s four-for-four, two-homer performance earned kudos for the Georgia center fielder, as did Levi Hyams’s three-for-six night (despite his having registered the evening’s final out), but the late charge was all that kept leadoff hitter Johnathan Taylor, cleanup hitter Colby May, and designated hitter Brett DeLoach from going hitless between the three of them. Six of the seven Red and Black pitchers used in the outing gave up at least one earned run . . . against Furman. Dylan Cole went two for two with a home run and two walks. Cole is the number eight hitter . . . for Furman.
How doomed is this team? The Diamond Dogs’ next dozen games are against Mississippi State, Louisiana State, Clemson, Mississippi, and Georgia Tech, four of whom are ranked in the Baseball America top 18. This team literally may not win another game all year.