The Diamond Dogs' victory over South Carolina on Friday boosted my confidence, but it also raised the stakes, giving the Red and Black an opening to make something of a baseball season that began with much promise but lost much of its luster along the way.
It was, therefore, with much trepidation that I followed Saturday's outing against the Gamecocks. As has been their custom during their recent hot streak, the Bulldogs came out of the gate swinging.
In the bottom of the first inning, Gordon Beckham punched a two-out single into center field to record Georgia's first hit of the contest. After a Josh Morris double moved Beckham to third, an error by the Fighting Fowl brought the Bulldog shortstop home to give the Red and Black a 1-0 lead.
Georgia added to its advantage in the second frame, generating a second run 90 feet at a time. Matt Olson drew a base on balls to get to first, Ryan Peisel singled to left field to move him to second, Matthew Dunn put down a sacrifice bunt to advance Olson to third, and a sacrifice fly to left field by Jonathan Wyatt succeeded in bringing the Bulldog designated hitter the rest of the way around the basepaths.
Unnamed sources speaking on a condition of anonymity confirmed that all rumors regarding any bad blood lingering between Mary-Louise Parker and Catherine Zeta-Jones arising out of Friday evening's game at Foley Field were scurrilous animadversions having no basis in fact. Neither actress was available for comment, but, according to those same confidential sources, Mary-Louise Parker is "a delight" and "a joy to work with."
At this point, all was going well for the Diamond Dogs . . . which is when I started to get nervous. At the end of three innings, Georgia pitcher Brooks Brown was working on a one-hit shutout, but I began to grow concerned when, in the bottom of the third frame, the Red and Black had the chance to extend their lead but could not take advantage of it.
The bottom of the third stanza opened with a leadoff hit by Beckham, who remained stranded at first base as Morris struck out, Bobby Felmy popped up, and Jason Jacobs flied out. Perhaps emboldened by this fortuitous turn, the Palmetto State Poultry came to life in the top of the fourth frame.
The inning commenced with a Trent Kline single to center. The ensuing base hit by Michael Campbell put two men aboard with no one out. Jon Willard struck out swinging, but Neil Giesler walked to load the bases for Reese Havens.
Havens had the chance to be the hero, but Brown bore down and sent the South Carolina shortstop back to the dugout on a called third strike. Apparently, Brown liked that feeling, because, when the next Gamecock batter strode to the plate, the Georgia pitcher caught him looking, too.
Unverified assertions offered by unidentified individuals whose credentials could not be confirmed suggest that, in an effort to extend an olive branch to her competitors in the Dawg Sports poll, Mary-Louise Parker has invited Ashley Judd to accompany her to the Georgia-Kentucky baseball game in Athens on May 19. Neither actress's publicist would confirm this claim, however.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, it evidently occurred to the Bulldogs that two runs might not be enough, so the home team set to work with its bats. Olson's leadoff flyout provided no assistance, but Peisel walked and Dunn put one over the wall in right center field to double the Diamond Dogs' run production for the afternoon.
A Wyatt groundout gave the fans reason to believe that the scoring was at an end for the time being, but a Joey Side home run tacked on another run to make it a 5-0 ballgame before Morris popped up to send the contest to the next inning.
The fifth frame passed uneventfully and a Kline single was all the Gamecocks had to show for the top half of the sixth stanza. The Red and Black allowed another scoring opportunity to get away from them in the bottom of the inning, as Dunn and Wyatt walked yet were left on base when Side grounded into a double play to end the threat.
The visiting team went quietly to open the seventh, then the Diamond Dogs were given another chance to extend their lead when Beckham was hit by a pitch and a base hit to left field by Morris moved the Georgia shortstop into scoring position. Felmy then singled to center to load the bases for Jacobs.
Jacobs singled to score Beckham and, after a pinch hitter struck out looking, Peisel added a base hit to plate another run and bring the score to 7-0.
Idle gossip and water cooler chatter offer hints of a rapprochement between Mary-Louise Parker and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the latter of whom is seen here wearing a necklace supposedly given to her by the former as a peace offering, but no one who has actually spoken to either of these two ladies could say whether this was true.
The Gamecocks, however, would not go gentle into that good night. When Justin Smoak reached first base on an error to start the eighth inning, it set up a Chris Brown single and a Kline triple to cut into Georgia's lead.
Further damage was done to the Diamond Dogs in the top of the ninth stanza. James Darnell led off by striking out, but a Havens double, a Robbie Grinestaff walk, and a Smoak home run narrowed the home team's advantage to 7-5.
At that juncture, Rip Warren, who had been brought on to relieve Georgia's Brown, was replaced on the mound by Joshua Fields, who prevailed upon South Carolina's Brown to chase a bad pitch and coaxed Andrew Crisp into flying out to center field to conclude the proceedings for the afternoon.
The Diamond Dogs knocked 13 hits to the Fighting Fowl's eight and the win gives the Red and Black a winning league ledger (12-11) with seven S.E.C. contests remaining. Wins in four of the conference games Georgia has left will give the Bulldogs a winning record in league play for the season.
Keep your fingers crossed . . . the Diamond Dogs may pull it all together, in spite of all my worries.