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The ninth-ranked Diamond Dogs were back in action on Super Tuesday night at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville, where the Red and Black played the season’s first game outside the friendly confines of Foley Field for the purpose of benefiting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Against Kennesaw State, with whom Georgia has struggled for the last several seasons, the Athenians escaped victorious from a contest with a box score that read like binary code featuring identical margins separating the combatants in runs (3-2), hits (7-6), and errors (2-1).
After Kirk Olivadotti’s daughter (and leukemia survivor) Kasyn Olivadotti threw out the first pitch, Bulldog starter David Sosebee set down the side in sequence in the top of the first inning. When the Classic City Canines came up to bat in the home half of the canto, center fielder Conor Welton reached on an error and shortstop Kyle Farmer moved him over to third with a double. A sacrifice fly by second baseman Levi Hyams made the score 1-0.
The Owls answered in the upper half of the second stanza, when back-to-back base hits to open the inning permitted KSU to tie the game with a sacrifice fly. Though the Diamond Dogs put runners on second base in the third and fourth frames, the score stayed snarled heading into the bottom of the fifth canto.
The game remained deadlocked thereafter, as well, even though right fielder Peter Verdin led off by being plunked, stealing second, and taking third on a sacrifice by third baseman Curt Powell. With one out away and a man 90 feet from home plate, Welton grounded out, Farmer walked, and Hyams flied out to leave the would-be go-ahead run on the basepaths.
The sixth inning saw no scoring, but it was not without its excitement. A pair of one-out KSU singles in the top of the frame put two men aboard, but reliever Ross Ripple coaxed a double-play grounder out of the Kennesaw State catcher. In the Bulldogs’ turn at the plate, left fielder Hunter Cole led off with a single, but the next three Red and Black batters registered outs.
With two outs against them in the top of the seventh stanza, the Owls loaded the bases with a single and a pair of walks. Blake Dieterich then was brought in from the bullpen as the sixth Georgia pitcher of the night, and he promptly walked in the go-ahead run.
A flyout followed, however, so the Diamond Dogs were able to knot the score anew in the home half of the canto on a Verdin leadoff single, a Powell baserunner-advancing sacrifice, and a Welton RBI double. Unfortunately, Farmer then hit into the double play that preserved the tie. One squandered opportunity begat another, as designated hitter Brett DeLoach’s two-out base hit in the bottom of the eighth inning went to waste when the next batter fouled out to first.
Dieterich retired the side in sequence in the top of the ninth stanza, including a strikeout of KSU designated hitter Max Pentecost (of whom I make mention solely for the purpose of typing the name “Max Pentecost”), and the Athenians came up to bat for the final scheduled inning. Pinch hitter Kevin Ruiz reached on an error from the leadoff spot and was replaced on the basepaths by pinch runner Nelson Ward, who moved into scoring position on a Verdin sacrifice.
After Powell was walked intentionally, a wild pitch allowed Ward to take third. Welton then was intentionally walked, as well, loading the bases for Farmer. The Georgia shortstop’s walk-off single to left field plated the game-winning unearned run, enabling the Bulldogs to escape with a win that reminds a fellow why they say it’s better to be lucky than good.