The Diamond Dogs set out for the Bluegrass State sporting a 25-24 record and desperately needing a series win over Kentucky to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. The Blue and White came into Friday’s game with a league-worst five SEC wins in the team’s first 24 conference contests. Nevertheless, the host squad pulled off the 7-4 upset that dropped the Athenians to .500 and left their postseason hopes on life support.
The Bat Cats used four hits, a walk, and a hit batsman to plate a quartet of two-out runs in the bottom of the first frame. Georgia retorted in the top of the third inning when third baseman Curt Powell was plunked to lead off the visitors’ turn at the plate, advanced as far as third on a pair of wild pitches, and came home on a groundout by left fielder Zach Cone.
Kentucky padded its lead with another four-hit canto in the ensuing stanza, bringing home two more runs on a pair of RBI singles. The Bulldogs, who stranded baserunners in three of the first four frames, left the bases loaded in the top of the fifth inning. The Athenians again put three aboard in the seventh stanza, thanks to a pair of one-out singles by Powell and second baseman Levi Hyams followed by a walk issued to Cone, and shortstop Kyle Farmer brought one run home with a base hit up the middle. Right fielder Chase Davidson added another with a sacrifice fly.
After the host squad went three up and three down in the bottom of the canto, first baseman Jonathan Hester led off the eighth frame with a single, advanced to second on a base hit by catcher Joey Delmonico, took third on a fielder’s choice, and came home on the Hyams single that pulled the Bulldogs within one in hits (11-10) and two in runs (6-4).
The Wildcats loaded the bases with two outs away on a single and a couple of walks before a catcher’s interference call pushed a run across home plate, so Georgia came up to bat in the ninth inning trailing by three. Farmer led off with a double, but was put out at second, and the side was set down in sequence thereafter to end the contest.
Starter Alex Wood lasted five frames, surrendering six earned runs on ten hits while carding as many walks as strikeouts. John Herman struggled mightily with his control out of the bullpen, walking half of the four batters he faced, and, although the first four batters in the Bulldog lineup each batted in a run, those were the only runs the visitors mustered.
Kentucky has by far the strongest hardwood tradition in the conference, and the Wildcats are much improved on the gridiron, but they stink on the diamond. The Blue and White had no business taking the field with the Red and Black, yet Kentucky outscored the Athenians (7-4), out-hit their guests (12-11), and committed no errors to the visitors’ two. Unless the Diamond Dogs rebound to beat the Bat Cats on Saturday and Sunday, Georgia’s hopes of advancing past Hoover are gone.