Friday evening's rain delay necessitated a Saturday morning start time for the Diamond Dogs' playoff opener in the N.C.A.A. Regional against Sacred Heart.
Mickey Westphal got the start for the Red and Black and the Georgia senior went the distance on the mound, pitching nine scoreless innings on behalf of the host squad. Sacred Heart managed just three hits over the course of the contest and no Pioneer reached first base until Pete Kandybowicz singled up the middle after Dave Kaloyanides lined out to lead off the fourth inning.
Actress Melina Kanakaredes doesn't play baseball for S.H.U., but, since she has a lengthy and unpronounceable surname beginning with the letter "K," she could.
The Bulldogs fared far better at the plate than the visiting squad, but Georgia nevertheless took a little time to get going. The Red and Black did not produce a baserunner until Josh Morris walked in the second inning and Jonathan Wyatt's third-inning double marked the first hit for the Diamond Dogs. Fortunately, it was made to count, as the Georgia left fielder took third base on a wild pitch and came around to score when Joey Side doubled down the left field line.
A second Bulldog run was generated in the fourth frame, when Bobby Felmy led off with a single to left field, took second base on a balk, and came home on an R.B.I. base hit by Ryan Peisel. It was not until the fifth stanza that the Diamond Dogs broke the contest wide open, however.
Wyatt opened the bottom of the frame by reaching first base on an error. Side doubled and Gordon Beckham walked to load the bases. Although Morris took a called third strike to record the first out of the inning and Felmy popped up to register the second, the baserunners were not left stranded by Jason Jacobs, who doubled down the left field line to plate three unearned runs.
Jacobs did not remain on second base for long, as Matt Olson drove a deep ball over the wall in right center field to tack on two more runs and give Georgia a commanding 7-0 advantage over Sacred Heart. A solo shot by Beckham in the sixth inning added an insurance run.
Thanks to nine innings of shutout ball from Mickey Westphal, the Diamond Dogs used more pinch hitters than pitchers in Saturday morning's outing. (Photograph courtesy University of Georgia Athletic Association.)
From that point forward, the Diamond Dogs were on cruise control. No Pioneer reached base after the sixth stanza, but the Bulldogs remained aggressive. A scoreless seventh frame very nearly produced another big inning for the home team, as Felmy and Jacobs drew bases on balls to open the proceedings but were left stranded by three successive flyouts.
While the eighth inning opened with a Wyatt strikeout, the Bulldogs once again proved productive at the plate, as Side singled, Beckham doubled, and Morris homered to give the Diamond Dogs an additional trio of runs.
Georgia outhit Sacred Heart 13-3 on the way to an 11-0 victory. The stellar performance by the home team allowed the Red and Black to proceed through the winner's bracket, which set up a showdown with the Seminoles on Saturday evening.
To be continued. . . .