My family and I had a great time at G-Day (more about which later, likely on Monday), and, on our way out of town, we passed by Foley Field while Saturday’s contest was in progress. I glanced at the scoreboard, saw neither team had yet plated a run, and thought Good. What I should have thought instead was How can this afternoon’s game be even more excruciating than last night’s game?
Jeff Walters issued a two-out walk to Matt Smith in the top of the first frame to produce the only baserunner for either team in the opening inning. The Rebels were retired in sequence in the upper half of the second stanza, but Zach Cone led off the home half of the canto with a double to center field. Robert Shipman was hit by a pitch to put two aboard for Christian Glisson, who grounded into a double play. Although Cone made it as far as third, Zach Taylor grounded out to strand him.
No batter reached base in the third inning, and, after Ole Miss went three up and three down in the top of the fourth frame, Cone drew a two-out walk and stole second in the bottom of the stanza. Shipman struck out looking to leave the runner in scoring position. That kept the contest scoreless heading into the visitors’ half of the fifth canto.
Zach Miller drew a leadoff walk. The next two Mississippi hitters flied out, but subsequent singles by Mike Snyder and Taylor Hightower, coupled with a Peter Verdin error, allowed a run to score. Glisson began the bottom of the inning by drawing a base on balls and advanced as far as third base on consecutive groundouts, but Chase Davidson went down swinging to keep the Athenians trailing by a run.
The pitchers’ duel continued through the next three innings. The sixth stanza saw no batter reach base; the seventh canto saw only two singles, both by Rebel hitters and each erased by a double play and a flyout, respectively; the eighth frame saw a Hightower single in the visitors’ turn at the plate nullified by three straight strikeouts before the Bulldogs loaded the bases in the home team’s time at bat on a one-out Kyle Farmer double, a Colby May walk, and a hit batsman. The next two Diamond Dogs fouled out and flied out to keep the Red and Black off the scoreboard.
After a one-out base hit by Miller was squandered in the top of the ninth stanza, Cone evened the score with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the inning. The next three Georgians carded outs, and the contest proceeded to bonus cantos. The top of the tenth frame consisted of two walks and three strikeouts, while the home half of the frame saw the Bulldogs set down in order.
Matt Snyder was plunked at the outset of the eleventh stanza, but a double-play ball off the bat of Alex Yarbrough rendered the baserunner moot. No Classic City Canine reached base in the bottom of the inning, and the Rebels went three up and three down in the top of the twelfth. Shipman’s leadoff double in the home half of the frame was followed first by a pair of outs, then by a couple of walks (one of them intentional). Johnathan Taylor swung at strike three with the bases loaded.
The thirteenth inning proved unlucky for the Red and Black. Chase Hawkins was sent to the hill to start the top of the canto, and he conceded a single, a two-run shot to center field, another single, a baserunner-advancing groundout, an intentional walk, a fielder’s choice that sent the lead runner to third, and a run-scoring double. Mercifully, Yarbrough was thrown out at home to end the four-hit, three-run stanza.
Once more facing a late 4-1 deficit against Ole Miss, the Diamond Dogs answered in the bottom of the inning. Verdin led off with a single and came home on a Levi Hyams double. A Cone single scored another run, brought the would-be winning run to the plate, and brought Trent Rothlin in from the bullpen. Kevin Ruiz grounded out but moved the tying run into scoring position. Carson Schilling went down swinging to wrap up another one-run loss by the Red and Black.
Jeff Walters lasted almost seven innings, striking out seven while conceding just four hits and only one earned run, but Aaron Barrett countered by fanning ten and pitching a two-hit shutout through the contest’s 22nd out. Georgia left nine men on base, leading off by going five for thirteen but going hitless in twelve at-bats with two outs. Mississippi, by contrast, stranded eight and went six for thirteen when leading off an inning, yet carded four hits and two RBI with two outs against them.
Once again, a quality performance by the Bulldogs’ starting pitcher came up short when stacked up against a better performance by the Rebels’ starting pitcher, as the Athenians left a man on third in the second inning, left a man on second in the fourth, left a man on third in the fifth, left the bases loaded in the eighth, left the bases loaded in the twelfth, and left a man on second in the thirteenth. The result was the Red and Black’s eighth one-run setback in their last sixteen games.