The Diamond Dogs came into Thursday afternoon’s elimination game smarting from a third straight thrashing at Vanderbilt’s hands. The Plainsmen arrived at Regions Park with their backs against the wall. Georgia prevailed in a 3-2 nailbiter.
Each team had only a single to show for a scoreless opening inning, and a four-pitch walk in the top of the second stanza was negated when the baserunner was caught stealing. The Red and Black drew and squandered a base on balls in their turn at the plate, as well, then the upper half of the third canto featured a pair of singles but no runs.
Peter Verdin notched a one-out base hit and swiped second in the bottom of the frame, but a pair of flyouts stranded the outfielder in scoring position. That left the door open for the Tigers to draw first blood with a leadoff home run in the top of the fourth inning. That initial score was followed by a double and a throwing error on the ensuing sacrifice attempt to put runners at the corners with no one out.
Sophomore southpaw Alex Wood persuaded the next two Auburn batters to chase strike three before coaxing the final Plainsman to hit into a fielder’s choice, thereby limiting the damage to a single skinny run. The Bulldogs went in order in the home half of the canto, and two quick strikeouts in the top of the fifth frame were followed by two walks, a stolen base, and the run-scoring single that made it 2-0.
Once the Athenians had seen a pair of one-out singles erased by a first-pitch double-play grounder in the bottom of the stanza, the Alabamans had a hit batsman go for naught in their turn at the plate in the sixth inning. Levi Hyams led off the bottom of the canto with a single up the middle, and Conor Welton moved him into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Kyle Farmer’s ensuing base hit put runners at the corners, setting the stage for Zach Cone to bring a run home with a first-pitch double down the left field line.
Chase Davidson put the first pitch he saw into play, and the resulting throwing error allowed one earned run and one unearned run to score, spotting the Classic City Canines to a 3-2 advantage. The Plainsmen had only a trio of flyouts to show for the top of the seventh stanza, but Georgia opened the bottom of the inning with a leadoff single by Verdin and followed it up with a one-out base hit by Welton. After Verdin took third on a Farmer flyout, Cone sent the first pitch he saw into right field for the flyout that stranded an insurance run 90 feet from home plate.
The eighth frame saw the Tigers retired in order on a strikeout, a groundout, and a flyout before the Bulldogs carded a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning. A pair of two-out singles loaded the bases for Hyams, who grounded out to keep the Red and Black’s lead at a lone run.
Wood fanned the first batter he faced in the top of the ninth stanza and extracted a flyout from the second. The third carded a pinch-hit base hit up the middle to bring the would-be go-ahead run to the plate, but the fourth Auburn hitter obligingly went down swinging on an 0-2 pitch to end the game.
The power outage was a concern; Georgia was held scoreless in seven of the eight innings in which the Bulldogs batted, and, when you out-hit the opposition, 13-7, in a game in which both teams commit an equal number of errors, you ought to win by more than a run. Nevertheless, Alex Wood pitched a solid game, going the distance to preserve the bullpen for the next outing while throwing well enough to ensure that there is one.
Any day Georgia beats Auburn and lives to play another day is a good day.