The Diamond Dogs, sporting a No. 17 RPI and the nation’s toughest strength of schedule, welcomed the Country Gentlemen to the Classic City on Wednesday night for a clash between two teams who are safely in the NCAA postseason field. The Jungaleers arrived in Athens boasting a No. 15 RPI and a No. 5 strength of schedule rank, and they left with a 5-2 road win.
Clemson wasted no time getting to Georgia starter Ben Cornwell. After the first two Tigers grounded out to kick off the opening inning, the next two South Carolinians walked, permitting shortstop Brad Miller to drive in three runs with a homer to center field. The Bulldogs got back one of those runs in the bottom of the stanza when second baseman Levi Hyams led off with a double, moved over to third on a base hit by left fielder Conor Welton, and came home on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Kyle Farmer.
Following a second canto in which neither team put a man aboard, catcher Brandon Stephens carded the single that made him the only player for either squad to reach base in the third frame. The contest proceeded to the fourth inning with the Orange and Blue leading 3-1 in runs, the Red and Black leading 3-1 in hits, and most of the scoring already in the books.
Consecutive one-out singles in the top of the stanza set the stage for the Jungaleers to place runners at the corners with two outs away, but center fielder Will Lamb was caught stealing to end the threat. Farmer’s one-out base hit in the home team’s turn at the plate went to waste, as well, and a single in the top of the fifth frame snarled the hits at four per side but left the score unchanged at the midpoint. The Diamond Dogs went three up and three down in the bottom of the canto.
A scoreless sixth inning saw the Fort Hill Felines retired in sequence before the Classic City Canines used a pair of singles to put a man on third with two outs gone, only to strand him 90 feet from home plate when the next batter reached on a fielder’s choice. The scoring drought, therefore, was not broken until the visitors’ half of the seventh stanza, in which a one-out double by catcher Spencer Kieboom and a two-out single by third baseman John Hinson scored another run. The Bulldogs left two men on base in the bottom of the frame, as did the Tigers in the top of the eighth canto.
Welton carded a one-out single in the home half of the inning, then advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on a Farmer groundout. When center fielder Zach Cone reached base on a Miller error, the Georgia left fielder scored an unearned run. Although Clemson generated an insurance run in the top of the ninth frame on a leadoff single, a pair of baserunner-advancing groundouts, and a wild pitch, the South Carolinians need not have bothered: Georgia had only a single to show for the Athenians’ final trip to the plate, so the Diamond Dogs fell in a contest in which they led in hits (9-8) and committed fewer errors than their guests (2-0).
It isn’t hard to figure why the Classic City Canines lost this one: Georgia left men on base in five of the last six innings. Chase Davidson, Brett DeLoach, Colby May, Curt Powell, and Kevin Ruiz all were held hitless in two at bats apiece; Zach Cone, Jonathan Hester, and Levi Hyams between them went two for twelve; Brandon Stephens went two for three; Conor Welton went three for four; none of them batted in a run. You can put ‘em on and move ‘em over all you like, but, if you don’t bring ‘em home, you aren’t going to win.