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The Diamond Dogs limped into their Tuesday night date against Kennesaw State with a 26-26 overall record and five losses in their last seven outings to strand Georgia five games out of first place in the rugged SEC East. With the seventh-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores on tap for the season-ending series that will open with an ESPNU Thursday evening game, the Red and Black needed a weeknight win in the worst way, and the Owls were just what they seemed, falling to the Athenians by a 9-4 margin.
A leadoff double by second baseman Levi Hyams in the bottom of the first frame led to a run when consecutive groundouts brought the baserunner around to score. The Bulldogs tacked on four more---all unearned---in the home half of the second stanza, thanks to the combination of four Georgia hits and two KSU errors.
The scoring thereafter ceased for a couple of cantos, until designated hitter Chase Davidson opened the lower half of the fifth inning with a double and pinch hitter Kevin Ruiz brought him home with a base hit. The sixth canto saw additional runs tacked onto the Classic City Canines’ tally, as consecutive singles by shortstop Kyle Farmer, left fielder Zach Cone, and pinch hitter Brett DeLoach plated one run.
First baseman Jonathan Hester brought Cone home with a groundout, and a subsequent Owl error brought DeLoach home, as well. Reliever Bryan Benzor surrendered the shutout in the top of the seventh stanza on four singles and a walk, necessitating that Craig Gullickson come in from the bullpen and put out the fire to enable the home team to head to the eighth frame holding a 9-3 lead. That score remained unchanged until closer Earl Daniels permitted two walks, two singles, and a run-scoring wild pitch to give the contest its final margin.
Starter Patrick Boling lasted three innings, facing 15 batters and conceding three bases on balls, two hits, and no runs. Chase Hawkins likewise allowed two hits in two scoreless innings of relief, although the pitching staff as a whole gave up eight walks while carding only three strikeouts. Meanwhile, the Athenians got two-RBI nights out of Farmer and center fielder Conor Welton.
While the contest didn’t end up being as much of a laugher as it started out to be, the Diamond Dogs (with, admittedly, more than a little help from their guests) took charge early, scoring in four of the first six frames to take a nine-run lead on a day when David Perno deliberately gave multiple pitchers playing time. Now the challenge is to find enough wins against Vanderbilt and in Hoover to keep the Red and Black where they are---namely, one game over .500---and where they need to be if their projected date with Georgia Tech in the Atlanta Regional is to come to pass.