Diamond Dogs Open SEC Play with Shutout Win Over Tennessee

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Tennessee Volunteers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 9 1
Georgia Bulldogs 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 X 4 7 1

On Friday night, the Diamond Dogs welcomed Tennessee to the Classic City for the season’s first SEC series. The Big Orange, who arrived in Athens trailing a three-game losing streak after starting out 7-0 under first-year head coach Dave Serrano, obligingly fell in a 4-0 Georgia win.

Following a scoreless first frame, the Red and Black drew first blood in the home half of the second stanza. First baseman Jonathan Hester drew a one-out walk and made it the rest of the way around on consecutive singles by third baseman Curt Powell and center fielder Conor Welton. An error on a failed pickoff attempt advanced both baserunners before designated hitter Nelson Ward plated two runs with a two-out base hit. That marked the end of the line for Volunteer starter Nick Blount, who surrendered four hits, one base on balls, and three runs in an inning and two-thirds.

After shortstop Kyle Farmer tacked on an extra run with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the third canto, starter Alex Wood erased a one-out Tennessee single in the top of the fourth frame by extracting a double-play grounder from Volunteer center fielder Chris Fritts. There followed a rain delay at Foley Field, then the Big Orange managed to get a baserunner past first for the first time in the sixth stanza. A leadoff single set the stage for one groundout to move the runner into scoring position and another groundout to advance him to third, but reliever Bryan Benzor, who had succeeded Wood on the hill at the outset of the fifth canto, fanned the next Tennessee batter to preserve the shutout.

At the end of six innings, the teams were tied with seven hits per side, but that balance was tilted in the Volunteers’ favor when Fritts led off the seventh frame with a double and first baseman Davis Morgan followed that up with a base hit to put runners at the corners with no outs. Benzor struck out pinch hitter Jake Rowland, at which point Earl Daniels took over, struck out shortstop Zach Osborne, and coaxed a stanza-stopping groundout from second baseman Will Maddox.

Welton was plunked to start the bottom of the canto, and he moved over to third on a pair of groundouts, but second baseman Levi Hyams went down swinging to make the Georgia center fielder just the Bulldogs’ fourth stranded baserunner of the night. The Red and Black left another man aboard in the eighth frame when a two-out walk was followed by a strikeout, but the Big Orange’s will had been broken, and closer Blake Dieterich took the mound in the top of the ninth inning to bring down the curtain with two flyouts and a groundout.

In seven scoreless stanzas, Wood, Benzor, and Daniels combined to strike out six and walk none. Ward, who drove in three runs as the leadoff hitter in Wednesday night’s game, carded two RBI at the top of the order tonight. Though Georgia was far from explosive offensively, the Diamond Dogs didn’t waste many of their handful of chances; however, the main reason the Classic City Canines came away victorious was the simple fact that, in the box score, under the heading marked “left on base,” the line for Tennessee read: “All of ‘em.”

Go ‘Dawgs!

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