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Following nine straight games played outside of the confines of Clarke County, the Diamond Dogs returned to Athens on Tuesday night in time to welcome the 17th-ranked Engineers to Foley Field. After a promising start, the Red and Black were outscored 14-4 in the final five innings, finally falling 15-6 to sustain their fourth loss in their last five games.
The game began as a pitchers’ duel between Georgia’s Chase Hawkins and Georgia Tech’s Matt Grimes, with each starter holding the opposition to a lone base hit in the first frame and retiring the side in the second stanza. After the Ramblin’ Wreck went three up and three down in the top of the third inning, the Red and Black squandered a one-out bunt single.
That left the door open for the Golden Tornado to take the lead in the visitors’ half of the fourth frame on a solo home run by third baseman Matt Skole. Second baseman Levi Hyams evened the hits at three per side with a leadoff single to start the bottom of the canto before moving into scoring position on a one-out wild pitch. Designated hitter Chase Davidson moved Hyams over to third with a groundout, enabling shortstop Kyle Farmer to tie the game with a base hit. Right fielder Kevin Ruiz’s ensuing double gave the Bulldogs the edge.
First baseman Jake Davies began the fifth inning with a bang, tying the game with the leadoff home run that drove Hawkins from the mound following four frames in which he fanned two, walked none, and conceded four hits and two earned runs. Right-handed reliever John Herman bequeathed two baserunners to southpaw Craig Gullickson with two outs, and the third Georgia hurler of the night gave up a run-scoring single to Skole and an RBI double to designated hitter Daniel Palka before getting the requisite third out. The Yellow Jackets led by two runs (4-2) and by two hits (7-5) at the midpoint.
From that point, the wheels came off entirely. The Athenians were retired in sequence in the bottoms of the fifth and sixth frames, while the Atlantans added three runs in the top of the sixth stanza and two more in the top of the seventh canto. A leadoff double, a wild pitch, and a walk put runners at the corners with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, but catcher Brandon Stephens lined into an unassisted double play to squelch any prospect of a rally.
Nevertheless, the Diamond Dogs demonstrated a desire not to go gentle into that good night during the eighth frame, when righty Bryan Benzor pitched out of a jam during the visitors’ turn at the plate and the Bulldogs came up to bat prepared to do some damage. The Red and Black strung together four straight one-out hits to bring home a pair of runs before using a groundout and a wild pitch to score two more.
The Yellow Jackets answered by loading the bases in the top of the ninth inning to set the stage for a Skole grand slam, then loading the bases again to set the stage for a hit batsman and a base on balls to force home the canto’s fifth and sixth runs. The Bulldogs managed to get two men into scoring position with two outs away in the bottom of the last canto, but a groundout put the embarrassing result in the books.
While both teams carded double-digit hit totals and neither team committed an error, Georgia Tech scored in five of the last six stanzas, tallying multiple runs in four of the final five frames, while Georgia was held scoreless in seven of nine innings and managed to turn twelve hits into only six runs. As was the case with this Sunday’s setback suffered at the hands of the South Carolina Gamecocks, the loss to a quality club was forgivable, but the score was discouraging. There is no dishonor in falling to a superior force, but there is no excuse for the gap to be this large, and more must be expected of Georgia’s oldest varsity sport than this.
The last time David Perno’s squad dropped four decisions in a five-game span, the Classic City Canines followed up that skid with a five-game winning streak. With the No. 11 LSU Tigers coming to town this weekend and the No. 19 Clemson Tigers hosting the Red and Black by the shores of Lake Hartwell next Tuesday night, the prospects for such a similar successful skein in the near future appear dim.