After falling in Baton Rouge by a run on Friday night, the Diamond Dogs returned to Alex Box Stadium on Saturday afternoon believing they could compete with defending national champion Louisiana State. On Skip Bertman Day, the Classic City Canines played their best game of the season in a 12-6 victory.
A Beau Didier error enabled Peter Verdin to reach base and take second with one out in the visitors’ half of the opening canto, allowing Levi Hyams to score him with a single. Another base hit by Zach Cone put a runner on third, but the next two Red and Black batters carded outs. The Tigers tied the game in the bottom of the frame on a leadoff double by Mikie Mahtook and a pair of baserunner-advancing outs.
After neither squad produced a baserunner in the second stanza, the Classic City Canines took the lead in the top of the third inning on a one-out single by Verdin and a two-run shot to left field by Hyams. The Bayou Bengals had an answer in the bottom of the canto, though, when Mahtook drove a one-out double to left field and came home on a Tyler Hanover single.
The Diamond Dogs went three up and three down in the upper half of the fourth frame, allowing LSU to get right back to work with a leadoff single by Matt Gaudet in the bottom of the stanza. A one-out single by Austin Nola and a two-out plunking of Johnny Dishon loaded the bases for Mahtook, who flied out to strand three.
Following two quick outs in the top of the fifth canto, consecutive doubles by Verdin and Hyams plated one run. A Cone walk and a Robert Shipman single scored two more before Zach Taylor popped up to end the inning. The Tigers responded with a two-out Micah Gibbs double and a two-run Gaudet shot to left field in the home half of the frame.
Georgia generated another run off of a Kyle Farmer single, a Colby May sacrifice, and a run-scoring base hit by Christian Glisson in the top of the sixth stanza. A leadoff walk by Nola in the bottom of the inning came to nothing when the next three Bayou Bengals produced only outs. After a one-out Shipman walk and a subsequent Chase Davidson single, the Bulldogs brought home a trio of runs on a Farmer double and a May single in the top of the seventh frame.
In the home half of the canto, Justin Earls took over for Jeff Walters, who had held the opposition to eight hits, two walks, and four earned runs. The Red and Black reliever surrendered a leadoff double to Hanover but elicited outs from the next two Tiger hitters. After a Gaudet single scored a run, Leon Landry grounded out to bring the Bulldogs back up to bat for a hitless opening half of the eighth frame.
The visitors returned to the field needing to record six outs before surrendering six runs, and, although Nola led off with a base hit, the next three Louisiana State student-athletes to step into the batter’s box registered outs. A leadoff double by Shipman to start the ninth canto and a one-out home run by Farmer tacked on two more runs, so Steve Esmonde came on in the bottom of the inning with a seven-run cushion.
Once the first two Bayou Bengal batters flied out, Grant Dozar drew a base on balls and took second on a wild pitch. A Gaudet single scored him, but a Landry groundout squelched any hope of a hometown rally and concluded a Georgia victory that was no fluke. The visiting Athenians’ 12-6 triumph came in a game in which the Red and Black out-hit the Tigers (15-12), the errors were even at one apiece, and the Pelican State Panthers did not outscore the Classic City Canines in any inning.
Despite striking out nine times, the Diamond Dogs produced two home runs and five doubles in the course of a continual barrage that saw half of the visitors’ runs scored in the final four frames. Georgia had four multi-run innings (to LSU’s one) as Kyle Farmer (3 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI), Levi Hyams (3 for 4, 1 HR, 4 RBI), Robert Shipman (2 for 4, 2 RBI), and Peter Verdin (2 for 6) all had solid days at the plate. Tiger starter Austin Ross surrendered five earned runs in as many innings.
Previous close road losses to Georgia Tech and LSU, both ranked in the top five, suggested that the Diamond Dogs might be better than their record, but, much like Mark Fox’s Hoop Dogs, the Georgia baseball team had struggled to get over the hump. Saturday’s outing was just one game, and it might not mark the turning point for a young team that is gaining experience and overcoming injuries, but, at least on this one afternoon, the Red and Black were the better team. That is a much more positive sign than we have seen from a Georgia baseball team in a long, long time.