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The Diamond Dogs, believed by Baseball America to be the last SEC squad safely in the 64-team NCAA Tournament field, hosted East Tennessee State at Foley Field on Tuesday night for a final tune-up before traveling to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the final series of the regular season. The Athenians did what they were supposed to do, dispatching ETSU by a 7-4 final margin.
Following an uneventful opening inning, the Bucs generated a run in the top of the second stanza on a pair of singles and a couple of walks with a double-play lineout sandwiched in between. The Bulldogs answered in the home half of the frame on back-to-back doubles by catcher Brett DeLoach and designated hitter Jared Walsh, a passed ball, and a base hit by center fielder Peter Verdin to make it 2-1.
Georgia got on the board again in the bottom of the third canto, as a one-out single by shortstop Kyle Farmer, a double by left fielder Hunter Cole, and a base hit by DeLoach pushed one run across home plate, then a two-out single by Verdin scored one more. ETSU narrowed the gap with leadoff home runs in the visitors’ halves of the fourth and fifth frames.
After squandering a two-out single in the fourth inning and a two-out double in the fifth canto, the Red and Black loaded the bases with two outs away in the sixth stanza on consecutive singles by right fielder Kevin Ruiz and pinch hitter Levi Hyams, followed by a walk drawn by third baseman Curt Powell. This time, the Classic City Canines opted not to waste the opportunity, as Farmer drove in a trio with a triple.
A Hyams error in the top of the seventh frame enabled the Buccaneers to plate an unearned run with a double, but Farmer prevented the miscue from causing additional damage when he ended the threat with an unassisted double play. That was the last of the drama before the upper half of the ninth inning, which began with Pete Nagel giving up two straight singles to bring the would-be tying run to the plate. Fortunately, Farmer stepped up defensively again, turning the double play that squelched the threat before a strikeout formally ended the game.
Despite committing a pair of errors, the Diamond Dogs did well defensively, as East Tennessee State never scored more than a single run in any individual inning, and none of the eight pitchers David Perno used surrendered more than one score. The last five guys out of the bullpen gave up no earned runs, while Georgia notched 13 hits, including four doubles and a triple. The Red and Black managed nothing more than what was expected, but they did what was required of them.