MaconDawg asked the right question: was Georgia's three-game sweep of Auburn "a sign that the young Dawgs are rounding into shape, or was it an anomaly?" Tuesday night's home game against the Mercer Bears, whom the Red and Black defeated in a one-run game earlier in the season, would give us an early inkling of the answer to that inquiry.
The visitors were dispatched expeditiously by Georgia starting pitcher Jason Leaver in the top of the initial inning, when three Mercer batters came to the plate and none reached base. The Diamond Dogs, by contrast, demonstrated an early commitment to generating runs in the home half of the first frame.
After Jonathan Wyatt led off by striking out, Ryan Peisel drew a walk. Gordon Beckham flied out, but the Bulldog third baseman took second base on an error. Once Matt Olson drew a base on balls of his own, the two Georgia baserunners stole third and second, respectively. Although Joey Lewis went down swinging to conclude the Diamond Dogs' turn at bat, an aggressive tone already had been set by the host squad.
The Bears went three up and three down to start the second stanza, after which the Red and Black went right back on the offensive. Clayton Cain's flyout was followed by Matt Robbins's single. Jake Crane was hit by a pitch, then a base hit by Mike Freeman loaded the bases for Wyatt, whose double to center field plated three runs. Although the next two Bulldog batters recorded outs, the home team had staked itself to a 3-0 lead.
The entire Crane family was proud of Jake for his two-run, two-R.B.I. night. Of course, Martin had to explain to Frasier and Niles what an R.B.I. was, and Niles felt obliged to point out that, in order to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition, it should be called an R.I.W.W.B. ("run in which was batted"), but, anyway, they're proud of him, just the same.
John Dortch led off the third inning with the Bears' first hit of the game, but his teammates were unable to advance him before registering the requisite three outs, so the Diamond Dogs went back to work. Olson got things going with a single and the Georgia left fielder took second base on an error, but both Lewis and Cain struck out swinging, while Olson was caught stealing at third, so the Red and Black's attacking style produced no additional scoring in the third stanza.
Despite the fact that Leaver had given up one hit, no walks, and no runs to the 10 batters he faced through three innings, the Bulldog starter was replaced on the hill by Dean Weaver at the outset of the fourth frame. As is obvious to anyone with rudimentary reading skills, the difference between Leaver and Weaver is the difference between a W and an L . . . but in precisely the opposite manner on the mound as in the dictionary.
While Weaver managed to coax a groundout from Billy Shaughnessy, he conceded consecutive singles to the next two Mercer hitters before permitting Tyler Brown to clear the bases with a double that plated a pair of runs. Andrew Einert grounded out to second to move the Bears' designated hitter over to third, then Dortch's ensuing double scored Brown. Jason Lowey followed that up by flying out, but, by then, the game had been tied.
The Classic City Canines collected a couple of walks in the bottom of the inning, but no Bulldog came around to break the deadlock. Likewise, the top of the fifth was not without its excitement, as Michael Langley led off with a base hit and his teammates traded two outs for two bases before Josh Thompson flied out to strand him on third, but neither team got it going again offensively until the midpoint of the contest had been passed.
Mercer second baseman Michael Langley went one for three at Foley Field on Tuesday night, which isn't bad for a player who is home to the C.I.A. headquarters building. (I hope you enjoyed that joke, by the way, because I'm pretty sure that I have been under government surveillance since performing a Google image search for the C.I.A. headquarters building.)
Beckham began the home half of the fifth frame with a base hit and Olson moved him over with a single of his own. A Lewis double to center field scored a pair of runs. Although Rich Poythress drew a base on balls and Freeman knocked a single into left field, a flyout, a popup, and a strikeout combined to prevent further scoring.
Adam McDaniel took over the hurling duties at the outset of the sixth stanza and, despite plunking one batter, he nevertheless recorded a strikeout, a flyout, and a groundout to conclude the fifth scoreless inning for the Diamond Dog defense. Four Bulldogs entered the batter's box in the bottom of the inning; three were sat down, but Beckham put one out to left field to open up a 6-3 advantage.
Eric Renfroe registered a double in the top of the seventh inning, but the Bears had nothing else to show for their turn at bat, so the home team went back on the attack, commencing with a Poythress single to center field. Blake Cannady sacrificed the Georgia pinch hitter over, enabling a base hit by Crane to score another run.
Freeman punched a single into left field to move the Red and Black catcher to third and a sacrifice fly by Wyatt plated Crane, as well. Iain Sebastian was brought in to pitch the top of the eighth and, although he gave up a walk, he did not give up a run.
Iain Sebastian pitched a hitless eighth inning for the Diamond Dogs, but I still think Teri Hatcher's character should dump him and go back to Mike.
The first two Georgia batters in the bottom of the inning recorded outs, but this was followed by a Matt Cerione single, a pair of walks, and a plunking of Crane that produced the home team's ninth run. After that, it was just a matter of bringing on Ryan Woolley to close out the contest. Dortch padded his stats with a meaningless single, but Lowey grounded into the double play that ended the game.
While some might say that there is only so much that can be read into a win over Mercer, the Bears came into the game on a 13-1 run. The Diamond Dogs played errorless baseball and five Georgia pitchers combined to strike out four, walk one, and hurl eight scoreless frames.
The Classic City Canines outhit the opposition, 13-8. Ryan Peisel went hitless in four at-bats, but the other three batters in the top of the order (Jonathan Wyatt, Gordon Beckham, and Matt Olson) combined to go five for 12 with five R.B.I. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that the Diamond Dogs scored in five of eight innings, including each of the last four frames.
After winning five of their first 16 games this season, the Classic City Canines have won four of their last four contests, concluding their lengthy homestand on an upswing before going on the road for a three-game weekend set with the Volunteers in Knoxville. While the Red and Black cannot come home with an overall winning record without recording a highly unlikely second straight series sweep, they can demonstrate that their "second season" attitude towards their conference campaign is genuine and revive Bulldog Nation's flagging hopes for a return trip to Omaha.