In the nightcap of the first day of the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., the Diamond Dogs took an early lead, were shut out in eight of nine innings, stranded baserunners galore, and gave up just enough runs to lose a game in which the two teams were tied with equal numbers of hits and errors. You’re shocked, I can tell.
Both teams led off with singles in the first frame, but neither could bring the baserunner home, so the outing’s opening score was delayed until the top of the second stanza, which second baseman Levi Hyams led off with a double. After catcher Brett DeLoach moved him over to third on a groundout, first baseman Colby May followed suit, advancing Hyams the remaining 90 feet with a first-pitch RBI groundout of his own.
Center fielder Peter Verdin was hit by a pitch, stole second, and took third on a wild pitch, but left fielder Conor Welton flied out to leave him there, perpetuating the trend of stranding baserunners in scoring position that continued thereafter: Vanderbilt left a man on third in the bottom of the canto before designated hitter Nelson Ward remained on second at the end of the Red and Black’s turn at bat in the top of the third inning.
That tendency endured only for so long, though, as, in the home half of the stanza, the Commodores loaded the bases with two outs on a hit batsman, a single, and a walk before a base hit up the middle drove in two runs. The Athenians had the opportunity to tie it up in the top of the fifth frame, when Verdin led off with a single, swiped second, and advanced to third on a groundout, but the Georgia center fielder was thrown out at home when third baseman Curt Powell reached on a fielder’s choice.
In the bottom of the canto, the Music City Mariners got a man aboard, who stole a base and came home on a single up the middle. A two-out base hit put runners at the corners and ended Alex Wood’s time on the mound after almost five innings of five-hit, five-strikeout pitching. Jay Swinford came on in relief and retired the first batter he faced.
After Ward’s leadoff single to start the visitors’ half of the sixth stanza went to waste, Vanderbilt tacked on a superfluous insurance run in the bottom of the frame on a one-out walk, a baserunner-advancing passed ball, and a two-out run-scoring single. Welton drew a base on balls to open the eighth canto, and a two-out single by shortstop Kyle Farmer put two men aboard, but right fielder Hunter Cole struck out to squander both players’ efforts. The ninth inning did not produce a baserunner.
This was exactly the game every Georgia fan expected to see tonight.