There was no rest for the weary, as the Diamond Dogs, rather than being given a respite following their marathon 17-inning loss to Gardner-Webb on Saturday in the longest baseball game in University of Georgia history, had to take on the Runnin' Bulldogs again on Sunday afternoon.
Justin Earls drew the pitching assignment for the Red and Black, taking the place of Jason Leaver in the rotation. Leaver failed to make it out of the second inning in either of his last two starts and the offensively challenged hometown Bulldogs needed something better than a pitcher with a 6.75 E.R.A. taking the mound, so Earls, a freshman southpaw who began his career by pitching 11 scoreless innings over the course of four contests, got the call.
My name is Earls.
Earls began by getting Jamaal Kinard to ground out in the top of the first frame, which concluded with another groundout by Jeremiah Lokken. In between, however, Matt Rizzuto recorded a single. Although the G.W.U. second baseman was caught stealing and picked off, the fact that Earls allowed a base hit to the second batter he faced proved to be a harbinger of bad things to come in the very near future.
For the moment, though, the Red and Black had their turn at bat, which went in the ordinary manner: Jonathan Wyatt flied out, Ryan Peisel grounded out, and Luke Stewart struck out, sending Earls back out to the mound. The second stanza commenced with a groundout by Justin Loyd, after which the wheels began to come off for the home team.
A double by Josh Drewery put a Runnin' Bulldog in scoring position and Daniel Cooke's ensuing single moved the Gardner-Webb shortstop to third. A base hit by Joey Testa plated one run and a single by Shea Harris brought home another. Although Brock Miller hit into a double play to prevent additional damage from being done, the visitors had claimed a 2-0 lead.
After Joey Lewis flied out to open the bottom of the second inning, the hometown Bulldogs' bats came to life. Matt Olson dropped a single into right field and took second base on a Matt Robbins groundout. Gordon Beckham's subsequent double scored the Georgia right fielder to cut the lead in half. Travis Parrott flied out to end the inning, leaving the tying run stranded in scoring position.
Energized by his teammates' uncharacteristic offensive outburst, Earls wasted no time dispensing with the Runnin' Bulldogs in the top of the third inning. After a Kinard groundout, a Rizzuto popup, and a Lokken flyout, the Red and Black went back to work in the batter's box. Unfortunately, the Diamond Dogs were unable to generate anything more than a two-out single by Peisel.
Gardner-Webb first baseman Jeremiah Lokken was hitless in four at-bats on Sunday. In addition, he arranged the murder of Balder and thereby precipitated Ragnarok.
Earls leapt out to a good start in the fourth frame, convincing Loyd to ground out to short and persuading Drewery to swing at strike three. At that juncture, though, the Georgia hurler surrendered the sixth Gardner-Webb hit of the contest as Cooke singled. Testa reached base on an error to put a pair of Runnin' Bulldogs aboard, with the G.W.U. designated hitter standing on second and his teammate taking third. Fortunately, Harris popped up to conclude the visitors' turn at bat and prevent Gardner-Webb from padding its advantage.
G.W.U. changed pitchers at the midpoint of the inning, sending Wes Cogdill to the hill in the bottom of the frame. Cogdill succeeded starter Taylor Brooks, who had surrendered three hits and one earned run to the 12 batters he faced. Lewis put one of the Gardner-Webb reliever's pitches into play, flying out to center field, and Cogdill gave up a base on balls to Olson. Although the Georgia right fielder took second on a balk, Robbins popped up and Beckham grounded out to end the threat.
Miller opened up the fifth frame with a single to center field, then Kinard took first on a fielder's choice and the G.W.U. center fielder made his way to second on an error. Rizzuto's ensuing base hit to left field plated an unearned run and an additional error on a fielder's choice hit into by Lokken scored another. Lokken was then caught stealing and Loyd went down swinging, but the Runnin' Bulldogs had claimed a 4-1 advantage.
The home team did not go down without a fight, as Miles Starr and Wyatt belted out base hits in the bottom of the fifth inning, only to have Peisel hit into a double play to squelch the budding rally. The top of the sixth stanza saw a Red and Black pitching change, as Earls was pulled after surrendering eight hits, four runs, and two earned runs in five innings of work. On came Nick Montgomery, who collected a flyout, a popup, and a groundout without allowing any Gardner-Webb student-athlete to reach first base.
In the home half of the inning, Lewis dropped a base hit into center field, but Olson hit into the fielder's choice that prevented the Georgia catcher from advancing. When the Diamond Dog right fielder took second base on a balk, Robbins flied out to strand him in scoring position. The seventh and eighth frames passed uneventfully, as no player for either team made it out of the batter's box in either inning.
Georgia catcher Joey Lewis went one for three at the plate on Sunday. She also did fine work as a pollster for President Josiah Bartlet.
The ninth inning commenced with something resembling fireworks, as Drewery walked and took second on a wild pitch, but his teammates failed to bring him home. The bottom of the final stanza showed equal potential for excitement, beginning as it did with a base on balls to Lewis that got Cogdill yanked, but closer Nate MacDonald obtained a lineout, a strikeout, and a groundout in rapid succession to conclude the game without further fanfare.
Dorothy Parker used to say that life wasn't one thing after another; it was the same thing over and over . . . and so it is with the Georgia baseball team. How poor was the offensive showing by the Red and Black? Gardner-Webb's leadoff hitter (Jamaal Kinard), cleanup hitter (Justin Loyd), and designated hitter (Joey Testa) collectively were one for 12 with one R.B.I. on Sunday . . . yet the Runnin' Bulldogs still outhit the Diamond Dogs (8-6) and outscored the home team (4-1).
Following yesterday's loss, Dave Perno called out Gordon Beckham, Matt Olson, and Jonathan Wyatt, saying: "Those are the guys we count on and they need to step up." Between them, they went three for 11 with one R.B.I. on Sunday, which was an improvement, but it wasn't enough. The Classic City Canines left six men on base.
Earls and Montgomery combined to strike out five, walk one, and give up two earned runs, which ought to be enough to win a game, but a trio of errors put the contest effectively out of reach and a perpetually struggling offense which failed to score in the final seven frames could not come close to overcoming that deficit.
Coach Perno's team is running on empty and, while I ordinarily would be inclined to use youth as an excuse, the underclassmen are far from alone in failing to produce. This Red and Black squad lacks leadership and, until one of the more experienced players decides to rise up and carry this team, squandered pitching performances and would-be winning runs left stranded on the basepaths are the fate that awaits the fading Diamond Dogs.