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The Diamond Dogs took the field in Hoover, Ala., for an unusual midweek contest against the Crimson Tide in a game that would not count in the conference standings. Personally, I’d be all right with not counting the darned thing at all, because Alabama completely outclassed Georgia in a disastrous outing for the Red and Black.
Despite the ultimate result, the evening got off to a good start when Johnathan Taylor drew a leadoff walk in the top of the first inning, but Colby May flied out and the Bulldog baserunner was caught stealing. Peter Verdin was issued a base on balls, as well, and the Georgia right fielder succeeded in his attempt to swipe second, but Chase Davidson went down swinging to strand a teammate in scoring position.
The home state squad fared rather better in the bottom of the canto. Josh Rutledge sent a one-out single into center field and stole second to open up a base for Ross Wilson. The Alabama second baseman walked and consecutive base hits by Clay Jones and Jake Smith plated a pair of runs. A pair of strikeouts followed, but not before the Tide had taken a 2-0 lead.
After neither squad produced a baserunner in the second stanza, Kevin Ruiz began the proceedings in the upper half of the third frame with a leadoff double. The next three Diamond Dogs carded outs. An error allowed Rutledge to reach in the bottom of the inning, and, after the Alabama shortstop stole second, Wilson moved him over to third on a groundout. The inning’s second Georgia error enabled Rutledge to come the rest of the way home.
A two-out single by Brett Booth scored another unearned run and Chris Smelley flied out after a third Red and Black miscue sent a runner to third. The Classic City Canines countered in the top of the fourth canto, commencing with a one-out base hit by Davidson. A balk advanced the Georgia infielder to second and a Zach Cone single moved him over to third before the Bulldog center fielder stole second to put two men in scoring position. Brett DeLoach brought both baserunners home with a two-out double to even the hits at four per side and cut the Crimson Tide lead to 4-2.
An Andrew Miller single, a sacrifice, a passed ball, and a walk put runners at the corners and forced Chase Hawkins from the mound in the home half of the stanza. Ben Cornwell came on and surrendered the sacrifice fly that plated Miller. Following a stolen base and a walk, a Jones single scored one run and a Smith double scored two more. A wild pitch signaled the end of the line for Cornwell and Evan Tieles persuaded Booth to chase strike three to conclude a three-hit, four-run canto.
A two-out walk and a follow-up single were all the Diamond Dogs had to show for the top of the fifth frame, but ‘Bama did not let up in the home half of the inning. Two Tide singles and another Georgia error loaded the bases with no one out, and, after Taylor Dugas grounded into a run-scoring double play, Rutledge brought another man home with a double.
The Athenians recorded two outs before producing two baserunners in the visitors’ half of the sixth stanza and a couple of Alabamians were plunked in the bottom of the inning, but neither team scored. The seventh frame saw two Diamond Dogs in scoring position with only one out, but Georgia could not bring either man home, while the Tide added to their advantage with a one-out single, a two-out single, and a three-run shot in the bottom of the inning.
After no Bulldog reached base in the upper half of the eighth canto, Alabama came back up to bat and loaded the bases with two outs away but could not force additional runs across home plate. The Red and Black’s last gasp in the top of the ninth inning ended with a whimper when Taylor reached first on a wild pitch with one out away and May promptly grounded into a double play.
The Diamond Dogs played their worst game of the season on Wednesday night. The Athenians committed an absurd five errors to place themselves squarely in a territory hitherto occupied by the likes of the Atlanta Braves of the late 1970s. The first six hitters in the Georgia batting order between them went three for nineteen with no RBI and eight strikeouts. The bullpen gave up seven earned runs in fewer than five full frames’ worth of work. Alabama scored multiple runs in five of the first seven stanzas.
No part of the Bulldogs’ effort or execution was anything other than poor and Wednesday night’s contest was utterly lacking in any redeeming feature from which a positive indicator might be gleaned. I know Kyle Farmer’s injury was a meaningful loss, but, for crying out loud, people. The Diamond Dogs need to flush this sorry setback from their collective memory banks in a great big hurry, because they have a three-game road series against Florida State beginning on Friday. This team needs to turn around quickly.