It has not been the best of weeks for baseball in the Peach State. Georgia Tech was the first team eliminated from the College World Series, the Braves are as bad as they've been since 1990, and, earlier this afternoon, the Diamond Dogs were bounced from postseason play, as well.
Georgia pitcher Mickey Westphal started out well, striking out Oregon State leadoff hitter Darwin Barney to begin the first inning. The first hit of the day went to the Beavers' John Wallace, but Westphal retired the next two O.S.U. batters he faced to send the contest to the bottom of the first frame, in which Oregon State hurler Jonah Nickerson sat down the first three batters he faced. This was to become a theme over the course of the afternoon.
Despite a pair of errors in the field, Barney went 2 for 5 with an R.B.I.
The Beavers went on the offensive in the top of the second stanza. Tyler Graham got things underway by putting the first pitch he saw into left field for a base hit. Mike Lissman followed up on that by punching a single into center field. Bill Rowe laid down a sacrifice bunt but reached first on a throwing error to load the bases for Chris Kunda, whose sacrifice fly gave Oregon State a 1-0 advantage.
Westphal dispensed with the next two batters, throwing four pitches to record a pair of outs and end the inning. In the bottom of the frame, Matt Olson became the first Bulldog baserunner of the afternoon when he was plunked by Nickerson, but, otherwise, the Red and Black went quietly.
Following a Wallace lineout to open the third stanza, Cole Gillespie doubled down the right field line and took third base on a Shea McFeely pop-up. Graham's subsequent bunt scored the O.S.U. left fielder, but the Beaver center fielder got greedy and was caught stealing at second to prevent additional damage from being done.
Two outs had already been put in the books in the bottom of the third inning when Jonathan Wyatt put a solo home run over the right field wall to halve the Oregon State lead. It was the first Georgia hit of the day and the last of the inning, as Joey Side popped up in the ensuing at-bat.
Side went 0 for 4 against Oregon State. (Photograph courtesy University of Georgia Athletic Association.)
Westphal's second pitch of the fourth frame plunked Lissman, who promptly stole second and came around to score on a Kunda double. Barney tacked on another run with a single through the left side to plate the Beaver second baseman. The Diamond Dogs came up to bat in the fourth trailing 4-1, but Georgia was unable to attain the elusive second Red and Black hit of the contest.
Trevor Holder took the mound for the Classic City Canines at the commencement of the fifth frame and he performed capably, sitting down the first trio of hitters to enter the batter's box. This set the stage for the first meaningful offensive output by the Bulldogs in the bottom of the stanza.
Olson got behind in the count, but, on a 1-2 pitch from Nickerson, he knocked a double into center field. Ryan Peisel likewise fell behind, though he, too, got a hit on a 1-2 count, punching a single to the third base side.
Faced with the opportunity to tie the contest, Gordon Beckham instead grounded into a double play, although the Georgia shortstop at least succeeded in moving the Bulldog designated hitter over to third. Matthew Dunn's subsequent single to center plated the second Red and Black run of the day, but no further scoring ensued ere Wyatt fouled out to end the inning.
As the sixth inning got underway, the Beavers led the Bulldogs 4-2 in runs and 7-4 in hits. Rowe belted the eighth O.S.U. hit of the day in the top of the frame, but his double to right center field came to naught, as his teammates flied out, grounded out, and popped up to record the requisite trio of outs.
A pair of Oregon State throwing errors allowed two Georgia baserunners to reach first in the bottom of the sixth stanza, but neither Bulldog made it as far as second, so the score remained unchanged heading into the seventh inning, which Mitch Canham led off with a single. Holder recorded the first out of the frame before being replaced by Rip Warren, who faced two batters and brought about two outs.
No Diamond Dogs got out of the batter's box in the bottom of the seventh, so the Beavers went right back on the offensive to start the eighth inning. McFeely muscled a leadoff double into left center field before taking third on a Graham sacrifice bunt. Lissman scored the Oregon State third baseman on a base hit up the middle. The next two outs were recorded in short order, but the bottom of the inning began with O.S.U. leading 5-2.
Nickerson having earned his keep for the day, Kevin Gunderson came on to pitch the eighth frame. Dunn put the first pitch he saw into play, grounding out to short, then Wyatt drew a walk on four straight balls. Although Side struck out in the ensuing at-bat, the Georgia left fielder made it all the way to third base on wild pitches, which put Wyatt in position to come home when Bobby Felmy singled through the left side. Josh Morris's subsequent pop-up prevented the Diamond Dogs from drawing nearer on the scoreboard.
Joshua Fields took the mound at the outset of the ninth stanza and the Georgia closer did his job as effectively as expected, allowing a meaningless base hit but otherwise recording three outs with little expenditure of effort. This put his teammates in the position of needing to score three runs before permitting as many outs.
Fields pitched one inning, allowing one hit, recording one strikeout, and surrendering no runs. (Photograph courtesy University of Georgia Athletic Association.)
Jason Jacobs's groundout did not provide a promising start, but Olson's single up the middle offered some hope. Kyle Keen was called upon to pinch run for the Georgia D.H. and a Peisel base hit on an 0-2 pitch moved him into scoring position. Beckham, who had squandered a similar opportunity in the fifth frame, was equally ineffectual in this instance, as he came to bat with the chance to give Georgia the lead and the win, but instead he grounded into a double play to conclude the inning, the game, and the season.
This morning, Building the Dam's Jake warned me that "[t]he Bulldogs will have to make sure the Beavers don't get off to a quick start." I likewise opined that "the Diamond Dogs must capitalize on whatever opportunities are presented to them" and must not make the mistake of leaving men on base. Jake and I both were right; the Red and Black were unsuccessful in each of these endeavors and, as a result, they lost a game they could have won in spite of the dominance of Oregon State's pitching and the strength of the Beavers' D.
While I regret that the loss brings the Bulldogs' baseball season to a close, I am proud of the Georgia baseball team and I am grateful to the squad for the excitement and enjoyment the Diamond Dogs' strong campaign produced along the way. Just two months ago, all appeared lost, but, just when it appeared that matters could not get any worse, the Red and Black rebounded and kept on rolling.
"Never give up! Never surrender!"
My congratulations go out to Oregon State. The better team won this afternoon and I hope O.S.U. goes on to claim the College World Series championship. As for the Diamond Dogs, I thank them for a superb season that fell just slightly short of a glorious conclusion. A.C. Evans said it best.