The Diamond Dogs resumed conference play at Foley Field on Friday evening, hosting the Tennessee Volunteers for the opening act of a weekend series in the Classic City.
Although the Big Orange surrendered 20 hits in a 15-4 loss to Florida in Knoxville last Sunday, you wouldn't have known it based on the pitching performance by U.T. hurler Craig Cobb. Georgia was held scoreless in four of the first five innings and two of the three Bulldogs to cross the plate during the first half-dozen frames scored on Volunteer errors.
The Red and Black's Mickey Westphal leapt out to a similarly solid start, opening the outing with five straight stanzas of shutout ball before the dam burst in the sixth inning. Tennessee caught fire and put up four runs in the top of the frame to take a 4-1 lead, paced by J.P. Arencibia and Michael Rivera doubles.
Not that Mickey . . .
The Diamond Dogs did not stay down for long, however, putting two runs into the books in the bottom of the inning to cut the lead to one and coming out of the gate swinging in the seventh stanza. Ryan Peisel made it as far as third base before Bobby Felmy flied out with two men on to end the inning.
Meanwhile, Mickey Westphal atoned for his sixth-inning lapses by taking control of the game from atop the mound and retiring six straight batters in the seventh and eighth innings. Kelly Edmundson, Chris Kemp, and Brian Van Kirk flied out and J.P. Arencibia, Cody Brown, and Michael Rivera grounded out.
. . . and not that Westphal.
Back stormed the Bulldogs in the bottom of the eighth frame, commencing with a leadoff single by Josh Morris. Following a Jason Jacobs flyout and a fourth Volunteer error, Kyle Keen singled to left field, thereby bringing another unearned run across the plate. Regrettably, Matthew Dunn grounded into a double play to end the rally and leave three 'Dawgs stranded on the diamond.
Westphal was to face only one batter in the top of the ninth, for, when Jarred Frazier punched the 11th Volunteer hit through the left side, the ball was turned over to Joshua Fields. A Julio Borbon sacrifice bunt, a Tony Delmonico strikeout, and a Chris Kemp groundout later, Fields had done his job and retired the side in sequence by fielding the ball when Borbon and Kemp put it into play and by throwing the pitch that Delmonico chased to no avail.
Given the chance to end the game during regulation play, the Diamond Dogs failed to capitalize on their opportunities. Joey Side grounded out, Jonathan Wyatt swung fruitlessly at strike three, Bobby Felmy grounded out, and the outing went to extra innings, where Tennessee promptly returned the favor: J.P. Arencibia and Ryan Jones flied out, Kelly Edmundson grounded out, and nary a Volunteer made it as far as first base.
To the bottom of the 10th the Red and Black went, coming to bat in the home half of the would-be final canto once more possessed of the chance to bring the contest to a swift and satisfactory conclusion. Yet again, Georgia began most inauspiciously, when Josh Morris led off by striking out and Jason Jacobs followed suit.
Thus devolved upon Gordon Beckham the opportunity to be the hero, of which opportunity he availed himself . . . in a manner of speaking. Beckham reached base on the Big Orange's fifth error of the evening and advanced to second base, whereupon Kyle Keen stepped into the batter's box and the Bulldog left fielder whose name is a near-homophone of my own proceeded to strike out swinging, just as Morris and Jacobs had earlier in the 10th frame.
I have no earthly idea which one of these people is Beckham or what exactly it is that any of them bends in such a noteworthy fashion, but I'm pretty sure none of them plays shortstop for the Georgia baseball team.
The 11th inning began ominously for the Diamond Dogs when Michael Rivera singled to center. Circumstances were not improved by the Georgia error which permitted Cody Brown to advance to first base. After Jarred Frazier reached on a fielder's choice, matters began rather rapidly to unravel for those clad in red and black.
A Julio Borbon triple scored Frazier and Brown. A Tony Delmonico single scored Borbon. That Chris Kemp thereafter went down swinging and J.P. Arencibia subsequently popped up to end the inning did not ameliorate the fact that the Volunteers carried a 7-4 lead into the bottom of the frame.
It then fell to the Diamond Dogs to demonstrate that they could score three runs before the visiting team could record three outs. If you've followed Bulldog baseball at all this year, you know full well what happened next: Ryan Peisel grounded out to second and Matthew Dunn flied out to left, leaving the Red and Black but one out away from yet another S.E.C. setback.
Along came Joey Side, who added some spark and renewed some hope with a two-out single, which, naturally, came to naught when Jonathan Wyatt flied out to right and the game ended not with a bang but with a whimper.
The Diamond Dogs surrendered 14 hits while tallying just nine of their own and Georgia was unable to score more than four runs, despite the assistance of five Tennessee errors. I shudder to think about the fact that these same two teams will meet on the same field again tomorrow afternoon.