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The Diamond Dogs spent the evening of Confederate Memorial Day and John Isner’s birthday at Turner Field, raising money for a worthy cause and taking on twelfth-ranked Georgia Tech in the season’s final scheduled meeting between the two baseball clubs. The Red and Black avoided the season sweep and carded a huge win over an almost certain regional host and probable national seed as Georgia carded a 6-4 victory over the Yellow Jackets.
The contest stayed scoreless until the bottom of the second stanza, in which the Engineers loaded the bases with a double and a pair of walks to set up scores on a single and a wild pitch. The Ramblin’ Wreck’s resulting 2-0 lead held up through the end of the third inning, but the Bulldogs moved out in front in the top of the fourth frame.
Left fielder Zach Cone drew a leadoff walk, stole second, and took third on a single by right fielder Kevin Ruiz. An ensuing base hit by first baseman Jonathan Hester scored the Georgia left fielder and moved the Red and Black right fielder into scoring position, setting the stage for third baseman Curt Powell to advance both baserunners with a first-pitch bunt single. Aided by a two-run base knock off the bat of shortstop Kyle Farmer, the Athenians ended up scoring five runs on five hits over the course of the canto.
The Golden Tornado got one of those runs back in the home half of the stanza, when two Atlantans made it into scoring position with only one out against them. A sacrifice fly scored one, but Bulldog reliever Bryan Benzor extracted a pop-up from the remaining Georgia Tech batter. The Yellow Jackets narrowed the gap further in the sixth inning on a two-out first-pitch solo home run, but the Engineers squandered a leadoff double in the seventh canto, so the game proceeded to the eighth frame with Georgia leading by one in runs (5-4) and in hits (8-7) while trailing by one in errors (1-0).
The Athenians padded their lead when second baseman Levi Hyams notched a base hit, stole second, and came home on a Farmer single up the middle. It then fell to the bullpen to secure the win, and the relief pitching was up to the task. Blake Dieterich surrendered a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning before retiring the remaining Georgia Tech batters on a strikeout, a flyout, and a groundout, while Tyler Maloof set down the side in sequence in the home half of the ninth canto.
At the end of the night, the Diamond Dogs led by two both in runs (6-4) and in hits (10-8). Georgia used six pitchers, who between them struck out seven while walking three, and the Red and Black surrendered only one run in the final five frames. Kyle Farmer (2 for 5, 3 RBI), Jonathan Hester (2 for 5, 1 RBI), and Levi Hyams (2 for 4, 2 RBI) led the way at the plate. The Bulldogs are now 3-1 in neutral site games this season.
This was a big win for the Classic City Canines. As much as we like to razz the Ramblin’ Wreck, the fact is that Georgia Tech boasts a quality baseball program, and the Yellow Jackets field a particularly strong squad this year. Even leaving aside the not at all insignificant fact that the Atlantans are our in-state rivals, beating a team of this caliber is an achievement that underscores this team’s worthiness for an NCAA tourney berth, despite its middling record. Georgia needed a big win over a good team, and, tonight, the Bulldogs got it.