The fifth-ranked Yellow Jackets traveled to Athens on Wednesday night for the second outing of the three-game series between the Diamond Dogs and their in-state rivals. This evening’s contest at Foley Field, like the meeting of the same two teams in that venue exactly one year before, lacked redeeming social value of any sort, as Georgia Tech prevailed by a final margin of 25-6. No, that is not a misprint.
Junior Eric Swegman, who neither made it out of the third inning in Georgia’s 11-1 home loss to Kennesaw State nor made it out of the first inning in Georgia’s 15-5 home loss to Clemson, got his third start of the season, and he began the visitors’ half of the first frame by walking the first two Georgia Tech batters he faced. Tony Plagman scored a run with a single, and Derek Dietrich came home when the Ramblin’ Wreck first baseman was caught stealing, but a pair of strikeouts ended the opening canto.
Sophomore Mark Pope, who had a solid outing in his start against Georgia at the Flats last month, picked up where he left off by retiring all three Red and Black batters he faced in the home half of the frame. Swegman began the top of the second stanza by surrendering a leadoff single, a stolen base, and a walk, at which point he was relieved by Steve Esmonde. The new Georgia hurler coaxed a double-play ball from Jacob Esch and a flyout from Jeff Rowland.
The Classic City Canines had only a pair of two-out singles to show for the bottom of the inning, but the Engineers resumed their onslaught in the upper half of the third canto. Plagman sent a solo shot to right center field with one out away, and the next three batters produced a base hit, an RBI triple, and an RBI single to force Esmonde from the mound. On came Alex Wood, who walked Thomas Nichols and gave up a run-scoring base hit before striking out Brandon Thomas. Esch was caught stealing to bring the five-hit, four-run inning to a close.
The Diamond Dogs finally got going in the bottom of the stanza. Johnathan Taylor sent a one-out single into left field, Levi Hyams reached on an Esch error, Kyle Farmer doubled to bring home two runs, and Zach Cone homered to bring home two more. Subsequent singles by Robert Shipman and Zach Taylor evened the hits at seven per side and put two aboard for Christian Glisson, who grounded into the double play that ended the five-hit, four-run retort by the home team.
The pitching duties devolved upon Blake Dieterich in the top of the fourth frame. The latest hometown hurler surrendered a leadoff single, threw the wild pitch that allowed the baserunner to advance, gave up back-to-back RBI doubles, and plunked Cole Leonida before finally extracting a flyout from Matt Skole. Dieterich issued a walk to Chase Burnette to load the bases for Nichols, and, although the Golden Tornado designated hitter struck out, he did not do so before Plagman scored on a wild pitch.
A base on balls issued to Esch marked the end of the line for Dieterich. Cecil Tanner succeeded him on the mound with two men out and three men on, and the new Georgia reliever issued three straight walks to force home a trio of runs. That brought Patrick Boling in from the bullpen, and he allowed another run to score on a wild pitch before eliciting a pop-up from Plagman to halt the three-hit, seven-run debacle.
Georgia generated a run in the bottom of the fourth canto on a one-out Chase Davidson double, a baserunner-advancing groundout, and a Hyams RBI single. A leadoff double, a walk, and a base hit loaded the bases for Nichols in the visitors’ half of the fifth inning, whereupon the Yellow Jacket designated hitter drew the base on balls that plated a run and caused Boling to be pulled.
Ben Cornwell was sent in in his stead, and, while he persuaded Esch to ground into a double play and struck out Thomas, Skole managed to slip across home plate while the ball was in play. Down 15-5 at the midpoint of the contest, the Diamond Dogs failed to narrow the gap in the bottom of the frame, as Cone singled and Shipman walked, but the next three Georgia batters carded outs.
The contest went from bad to worse in the top of the sixth stanza, in which a pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases for Skole, who drove a grand slam to center field. The Bulldogs went three up and three down in the home half of the inning, after which Zach Laughlin was sent to the mound to start the upper half of the seventh canto. He faced four batters and allowed one hit.
With the game well in hand, Georgia Tech substituted liberally as the home half of the frame got underway. Patrick Long took over on the mound and elicited flyouts from the first two Athenians he faced before loading the bases on a pair of walks with a double sandwiched between them. Colby May went down swinging to strand three.
Jeff Ussery led off the top of the eighth inning with a solo shot to left, and, after the next two Yellow Jackets flied out, five more runs were batted in on the combination of a Nichols single, a Jason Garofalo triple, an Evan Martin double, a Rowland single, and a Connor Winn home run. Now trailing 25-5, the Classic City Canines scored a run when Peter Verdin sent a one-out single into center field, stole second, and came home on a base hit by Hyams and an error by Garofalo.
Alex McRee struck out two in the top of the ninth stanza but surrendered a triple before giving way to Cooper Moseley, who walked one yet subsequently secured a strikeout. The bottom of the final inning consisted of a flyout, a pop-up, and a groundout to bring the bloodletting to a merciful end.
Mark Pope again performed ably against the Red and Black, conceding ten hits yet walking only one opposing batter and permitting four earned runs in six stanzas’ worth of work. Bulldog pitching coach Brady Wiederhold, however, has some work to do: Georgia sent ten hurlers to the hill, four of whom gave up four or more earned runs apiece and only three of whom held the Golden Tornado scoreless. The hometown staff walked fourteen while surrendering four doubles, three triples, and four home runs.
Last month, WREK sports director Kyle Tait told me that the Yellow Jackets possessed offensive firepower throughout their lineup; we saw that confirmed in the performances of Chase Burnette (3 for 4, 1 RBI), Thomas Nichols (2 for 4, 1 RBI), Tony Plagman (4 for 5, 3 RBI, 1 HR), Jeff Rowland (4 for 5, 2 RBI), and Matt Skole (2 for 4, 5 RBI, 1 HR). Last night, I pointed out that the Diamond Dogs did not do well in night games, fared poorly when attempting to come from behind, and never won when committing no errors. The moral of the story is that you should listen to guys named "Kyle" when they talk about baseball.
This season has been circling the drain for some time now, but no indignity yet suffered has been as dispiriting as losing at home to a rival squad by a lopsided margin . . . unless you count the other times we’ve done that, I mean.