Friday evening's festivities at Foley Field, which may or may not have contained an element of palace intrigue (about which more anon), commenced on a high note, as the national champion Gym Dogs threw out the first pitch.
I wasn't there, so I can't tell you exactly what it looked like when an entire women's gymnastics team collectively threw the first pitch (and I would be most appreciative if anyone who was there could describe the event in the comments below), but, in any case, it happened and I hoped that some of the Gym Dogs' good mojo would rub off on the Diamond Dogs as they took on the South Carolina Gamecocks.
It is unconfirmed at this time whether Mary-Louise Parker was present at Friday evening's Georgia-South Carolina baseball game and, if so, whether she appeared to have been driven mad by the newfound power of having been declared "Dawg Sports worthy."
As has been their habit of late, the Red and Black leapt out to an early lead. A Joey Side single to center field, followed by a Gordon Beckham base on balls, opened the door for Bobby Felmy to plate two runs in the opening stanza with a double to left center.
In the second frame, Matthew Dunn drew a walk and was brought home by a Jonathan Wyatt homer, which extended the Bulldogs' lead to 4-0. The Gamecocks cut into the Georgia lead in the top of the third inning, however, as singles by Andrew Crisp, Chris Brown, and Jon Willard generated a run to narrow the gap to three.
As if that was not sufficient cause for concern, the Diamond Dogs reverted to their old ways in the bottom of the third stanza, squandering a scoring opportunity after their usual maddening fashion. Beckham opened the inning with a single but the Bulldogs were unable to advance the baserunner the rest of the way home, as back-to-back flyouts to right field by Josh Morris and Felmy doomed the effort to regain the lost ground.
Tabloid publications of dubious reliability purportedly have been known to report that, during the period in which she was the designated pinup of Bulldog Nation, Kristin Davis sometimes appeared in public wearing sunglasses to conceal her true identity. Unconfirmed rumors swirled around this fact after Friday's baseball game . . .
South Carolina's Neil Giesler led off the fourth inning with a walk, but, after Ian Paxton lined into a double play, Robbie Grinestaff drove a solo shot to right center field. The home team was down to a two-run lead.
Georgia extended its lead with a run in the bottom of the fourth frame. A Ryan Peisel single gave the second half of the inning a good beginning and he was brought around to score by a Dunn sacrifice bunt and a Wyatt base hit.
That was the last of the scoring for a couple of innings, so the contest headed into the seventh stanza with the home team holding onto a 5-2 lead. It was not as if the Bulldogs were lacking in opportunities to widen their advantage over the visitors, however.
The bottom of the sixth frame got underway with a Jason Jacobs single up the middle, but the Red and Black were unable to advance the Georgia catcher beyond second base, as flyouts to center field by Peisel and Dunn did nothing to contribute to the home team's cause.
. . . as the idle gossip of unnamed sources working from information gathered at second hand from hearsay witnesses alleged that Mary-Louise Parker had taken to emulating this claimed habit of Kristin Davis's.
It was in the seventh inning that the wheels began to come off, much as a fretful fan might have expected after the Classic City Canines left the door open for the division-leading Fighting Fowl from Columbia. It started with an error on the Bulldogs' part, which permitted Reese Havens not just to reach first base but to advance to second.
After Crisp went down swinging, a two-run shot to center by Brown narrowed the score to 5-4, but the Gamecocks were not done yet. After Michael Campbell got a base hit off of Mickey Westphal, the Georgia starter was relieved by Rip Warren, who fared little better initially.
Warren surrendered a single to Willard, leaving two men on and only one man out. At that point, the Red and Black pitcher got down to business, striking out Justin Smoak and forcing Giesler to ground out to the mound.
The Diamond Dogs went quickly in the bottom of the seventh frame, having nothing more than a Side single to show for their efforts, then Warren picked up where he had left off earlier. The top half of the eighth inning opened with a Paxton strikeout, continued with a Grinestaff flyout, and concluded with a called third strike to Havens.
While it cannot be confirmed by trustworthy sources that Catherine Zeta-Jones was even at Friday's game in the Classic City, habitual spreaders of idle chatter and baseless innuendo swear up and down that she was there with her husband, Michael Douglas, and that the aging actor was seen whispering in his wife's ear. What he might have said to her, assuming for the sake of argument that he was there and that he said anything at all, is the subject of rampant speculation.
In the bottom of the eighth frame, the home team's slumbering offense awoke again and shook off the lethargy of the previous five innings. Felmy walked, Jacobs flied out, and Matt Olson got a base hit. Blake Cannady was inserted into the game as a pinch runner for Olson and he promptly stole second base.
Peisel flied out and the Gamecocks elected to switch pitchers. Alex Farotto took the mound and proceeded to throw four balls to Dunn. A balk then moved Dunn to second and Cannady to third, enabling a Wyatt single through the left side to advance every Bulldog one base.
Farotto was removed and replaced by Conor Lalor, who immediately surrendered a base hit to Side, which scored Dunn. Beckham struck out swinging to end the big inning, but, at the conclusion of the eighth frame, Georgia not only had outhit South Carolina (12-11), but the Diamond Dogs had doubled up the Palmetto State Poultry (8-4).
Joshua Fields was brought on in the top of the ninth stanza to close out the contest. Crisp and Brown grounded out to lead off the inning, then, after surrendering a single up the middle to Campbell, Fields got Willard to whiff to end the game.
The Diamond Dogs at long last evened their league ledger at 11-11 and there are eight conference games remaining on Georgia's baseball schedule, including two more outings against the Gamecocks this weekend. This was a huge victory for a surging squad that has put up 66 hits, 45 runs, and five victories in the last week and a half.
If I didn't know it would jinx the team, I'd start to believe the Bulldogs are going to make the S.E.C. tournament. For the sake of the Red and Black, I will, of course, remain dour, yet the Georgia baseball team makes it increasingly difficult to continue doubting.