As you undoubtedly have observed around here of late, we have divided up the sports coverage among the members of the Dawg Sports staff, so I now belatedly bring you recaps of that portion of Friday’s Georgia sporting events it falls to me to describe. These are they:
When the two teams arrived at Foley Field on Friday afternoon, Georgia was 4-0 for the first time since 2009 and Winthrop was less than impressive in batting average (.152), earned run average (7.00), and fielding percentage (.931). When the two teams left Foley Field on Friday evening, the ninth-ranked Diamond Dogs had carded a 13-5 victory over Winthrop.
A first-inning error allowed right fielder Peter Verdin to reach base, enabling shortstop Kyle Farmer to drive in an unearned run with a double. Consecutive singles by left fielder Hunter Cole and second baseman Levi Hyams made it 2-0, and Georgia added to its advantage in the third canto when Farmer was plunked and Cole brought him the rest of the way around with a double.
In the fifth frame, the Eagles turned five singles and a hit batsman into four runs, enabling Winthrop to take a short-lived lead, but the Bulldogs offered a rebuttal in the bottom of the inning, scoring four of their own on a trio of singles, a couple of doubles, and a pair of walks. The Classic City Canines tacked on one more in the seventh stanza by taking advantage of a leadoff double, a wild pitch, and an RBI single.
Georgia broke the game open in the eighth frame when Farmer began the proceedings with a double and Hyams followed that up with a triple. A base hit by designated hitter Brett DeLoach, a base on balls drawn by first baseman Colby May, a Winthrop wild pitch, a walk issued to catcher Brandon Stephens, a fielder’s choice off the bat of third baseman Curt Powell, and a Verdin triple added five runs to the Red and Black tally, rendering meaningless except statistically the run the Eagles earned in the top of the final canto.
Alex Wood gave up eight hits in six innings yet received credit for the win, while the Bulldog batters stranded eleven baserunners. However, the Diamond Dogs were flawless in the field and belted out eight extra-base hits, including two doubles apiece by Hunter Cole, Brett DeLoach, and Kyle Farmer. The Georgia freshman left fielder went four for five, accounting for one-fourth of the Red and Black’s hits.
On Friday night in Gainesville, the third-ranked Gym Dogs were solid but not spectacular against the top-ranked Gators on the road, and, as a result, Georgia fell to Florida, 197.525-196.825, in a clash between SEC gymnastics powerhouse programs.
The Orange and Blue edged the Red and Black by margins of 49.375-49.25 in the vault, 49.4-49.225 on the bars, and 49.3-49.225 in the floor exercise, with Kat Ding contributing a 9.9, a 9.825, and a 9.875, respectively, in those three events. It was on the beam that the Gators were most dominant, however, as Florida carded a 49.45-49.125 triumph on that apparatus.
Though the Gym Dogs’ tally represented their second-highest road score of the campaign, merely being very good was not good enough when facing the No. 1 team in the land on its home floor. In such situations, Suzanne Yoculan’s teams were at their best, but, on Jay Clark’s watch, Georgia’s play is often methodical, as it was on Friday evening, but seldom inspired, which is what is required if a program hopes to claim a place among the nation’s elite.
Coach Clark said it best: “We were so close to being great tonight. You could see we were very, very close, but we were a little timid and that cost us.” Coach Yoculan’s gymnasts (who were recruited by the same coach, Jay Clark, who is recruiting Georgia’s gymnasts today) were never the least bit timid, and greatness was never something they fell short of attaining. Coach Yoculan was bold, and her gymnasts were, too. If the Gym Dogs are timid now, whose personality and coaching does that timidity reflect?
The theme of the week was a simple one: “Beat Florida.” Of course, I’m sure that was the theme of the Gym Dogs’ week, as well, which demonstrates the gap that sometimes exists between aspiration and achievement, irrespective of intention and even action. Inclement weather earlier in the day caused the game to be moved from the Club Sports Complex to the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall practice field, where my son and I sat close to the sideline---but for a Gator player raising his lacrosse stick to catch the ball in flight, I literally would have been struck by a ball---along with a good-sized and enthusiastic crowd, braving the freezing cold after passing by Foley Field while the aforementioned baseball game was in progress.
My novice status as a fan of the game, and the unavailability of detailed recaps published with reasonable swiftness afterward, prevent me from explaining as particularly as I would like what I witnessed, but it appeared to me that, in the early going, both goalies played solid defense and both offenses occasionally were errant with their passes. Georgia drew first blood and built up a 2-0 lead ere Florida got on the board. Before the teams changed ends, the Bulldogs had extended their advantage to a 3-1 margin, and play increasingly appeared to be taking place on the Gators’ side of the field.
By the time the Red and Black had built up a 4-1 lead, I had a tired cold eight-year-old on my hands, so my son and I departed at that juncture. We had seen all the scoring the Athenians would need, but by no means all the scoring they would manage, as the Georgia men’s lacrosse team avenged the injustice done to the Georgia women’s gymnastics team by dominating Florida in a 14-3 rout. Frankly, I take it as a good omen that this happened on the football practice field in Athens; the next time representatives of these two schools meet on a gridiron, I’d be quite content to see that same score replicated in Jacksonville.