Whatever encouragement was to be drawn from the Diamond Dogs’ doubleheader with the Bat Cats on Saturday was decimated in Sunday’s rubber match, as Kentucky clobbered Georgia, 11-2, in the SEC series finale. The Red and Black failed in every phase of the game in the loss.
Though the Wildcats did not score first, the tone of the contest was set early, as the Blue and White began the first inning with a leadoff single, and the baserunner advanced on a Bulldog error. Nevertheless, the initial runner to cross home plate did so in the home half of the first frame, in which the Athenians loaded the bases with singles by center fielder Conor Welton and shortstop Kyle Farmer, followed by a walk drawn by left fielder Hunter Cole. Designated hitter Brett DeLoach made the score 1-0 by hitting into a fielder’s choice, but first baseman Colby May struck out swinging to strand a teammate at third.
In the top of the second stanza, the Blue and White took the lead they would not relinquish. Using three singles, two hit batsmen, and a double, the Wildcats generated four runs. Georgia proved inept at bridging the gap, as second baseman Levi Hyams’s leadoff walk in the third canto went to waste when Welton grounded into a double play, and right fielder Peter Verdin went down swinging with two men out and three men on in the fourth frame. Between the two missed opportunities, Kentucky used a leadoff single and a two-run homer to pad the visitors’ advantage.
A leadoff double and a two-run homer in the top of the fifth inning made the deficit even more daunting, but the Classic City Canines made no headway in the bottom of the canto, as Hyams’s leadoff single was erased when Welton again grounded into a double play. Likewise, pinch hitter Heath Holder dropped a base hit into right field in the sixth stanza, only to be picked off.
In the seventh inning, a pair of two-out doubles tacked another run onto the Wildcat tally before the Bulldogs opened their turn at bat with consecutive singles but failed to push either baserunner across home plate. Cole’s two-out home run in the eighth frame closed out the scoring for the Athenians, but the Bat Cats were not done. In the top of the ninth canto, a pair of hit batsmen, a couple of passed balls, a duo of walks, and a Georgia error pushed two more runs across.
Today’s embarrassment was a total team effort. Starter Michael Palazzone gave up eleven hits and eight earned runs in five innings on the hill. Hunter Cole was the only Bulldog to tally both an RBI and a pair of hits. David Perno employed three pinch hitters, who between them went one for five, drew no walks, batted in no runs, and struck out thrice. The Red and Black committed a pair of errors. The Diamond Dogs fell to 18-11 overall and 4-5 in SEC play, and, when the latest poll comes out tomorrow, they will have dropped out of the top 25, and deservedly so following a critical rubber match in which they did nothing well.