On Friday evening, the Diamond Dogs hosted the U.S.C. Trojans for the first series meeting between the two baseball teams to be played east of the Mississippi River. The four previous contests between the two teams occurred in Omaha in a 2001 College World Series game and in Los Angeles for a three-game set last spring.
The Red and Black began their weekend homestand against Southern California with a scoreless first frame pitched by Nathan Moreau, who surrendered a walk to the Trojans' Matt Cusick but produced a strikeout, a groundout, and a flyout against the other three batters he faced.
U.S.C. second baseman Matt Cusick went one for three with an R.B.I. on Friday, but he is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Lloyd Dobler in "Say Anything..."
The home team immediately got to work in the bottom of the inaugural inning when leadoff hitter Matt Cerione took first base on an error and advanced to third on consecutive singles by Ryan Peisel and Jonathan Wyatt. An R.B.I. fielder's choice hit into by Gordon Beckham scored Cerione, then a Joey Lewis double brought Peisel and Beckham home, as well, to give the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.
Moreau retired the Trojans' first three batters in the top of the second stanza and, although Georgia was unable to add to its advantage in the bottom of the inning, it wasn't for lack of trying, as both Mike Freeman and Cerione had base hits to show for their efforts.
The U.S.C. bats began to come to life in the top of the third, when three Trojans flied out, grounded out, and struck out, respectively, yet the other two Southern California batters, Robert Stock and Grant Green, put solo shots over the wall to make it a 3-2 game. Distressingly, no Diamond Dog reached base in the home half of the inning.
Trojan designated hitter Robert Stock was one for three at the plate in Friday's game, but his lone hit was a home run and, to top it all off, he used to host "Unsolved Mysteries."
The visiting team picked up where it left off when the fourth frame got underway, commencing with a J.J. Owen walk which was followed by a Johnny Bowden single that moved the Trojan first baseman to third base. Although Lucas Duda grounded into a double play, Owen scored to tie the game before Hector Estrella squandered a single by being caught stealing.
Overzealous baserunning came back to haunt the Trojans in the fifth inning, as well. After the Diamond Dogs attained nothing more than a Matt Olson single in the home half of the fourth stanza, U.S.C.'s Nick Buss attempted to turn a double into a triple, only to be put out at third base. Wyatt punched through a single in the bottom of the fifth, but he made it no farther than first.
Stephen Dodson came on in relief of Moreau at the start of the sixth stanza. The Georgia starter left the game after facing 19 batters, striking out four and walking two while giving up five hits in five innings of work, including three earned runs, two of which came on homers. The reliever promptly induced two Trojans to ground out before striking out Owen to end the top half of the inning.
Although Southern California's J.J. Owen was held without a hit all evening, he nevertheless considered his performance to be "dyn-o-mite!"
The Red and Black enjoyed slightly more success in the home half of the inning, when both Olson and Freeman garnered base hits, but no Bulldog had passed second base before the third out was recorded. The seventh and eighth innings passed entirely without incident, as neither team produced a baserunner.
With the game tied at the start of the evening's final scheduled stanza, Southern California went back on the offensive. Green drew a leadoff walk and Cusick put a triple into left field to score the Trojan shortstop. Dodson generated three outs from the next three batters he faced, but the Diamond Dogs headed to the dugout trailing 4-3.
Unfortunately, no fireworks followed from the home team, as a trio of Bulldogs grounded out to begin and end the inning, producing a one-run loss in a hard-fought battle. Aside from the men left on base, it is tough to quarrel too much with the Red and Black after an outing like this evening's, in which the home team outhit the opposition, 9-6, and played errorless baseball.
The Diamond Dogs went all evening without one of these.
Three Georgia players went two for four at the plate (Mike Freeman, Matt Olson, and Jonathan Wyatt). Stephen Dodson pitched four innings and faced 14 batters, striking out three, walking one, and giving up a single hit and a lone earned run. On the whole, it was a decent outing everywhere except on the scoreboard.
In the most recent previous Dawg Sports poll question, I asked how you thought the Diamond Dogs would fare this season. Nearly half of you who voted (44 out of 97) foresaw an N.C.A.A. tournament berth that ended short of Omaha. An additional 19 of you---more than the number that forecast a failure to make it into postseason play at all---predicted a trip to the College World Series that ended with a loss rather than a win, while eight of you---the same number that believed Georgia's run would end at the S.E.C. tournament---went out on a limb and called for the Diamond Dogs to win it all in Omaha.
The Red and Black have shown much unrealized potential, but, at 4-5, they have a long way to go to begin living up to it. Georgia will get another chance to claim a win over a Pac-10 team when the Diamond Dogs take the field against U.S.C. at 2:00 on Saturday.