A big day in intercollegiate athletics got underway in the Classic City on Saturday afternoon, as the Diamond Dogs hosted division rival Florida in the second outing of a three-game set with the Orange and Blue after Georgia had squandered a 4-1 lead to lose the series opener on Friday night.
Stephen Dodson drew the pitching assignment for the home team and he was more than adequate in the top of the first frame, retiring the first three Gator batters he faced on a groundout, a flyout, and a popup. The Red and Black demonstrated a bit more spark in the bottom of the inning, when Gordon Beckham punched a two-out double into center field and took third base on a balk before Matt Olson went down swinging, leaving the go-ahead run 90 feet from home plate.
Regrettably, neither do the Red and Black move across it.
A largely uneventful second inning passed swiftly, as the Orange and Blue went three up and three down in the top of the frame and the only heroics in the bottom of the stanza consisted of Matt Robbins dropping a single into center field and taking second base on a Joey Lewis groundout before being left stranded on the basepaths. The third inning, unfortunately, provided a bit more in the way of excitement.
Bryson Barber led off by grounding out for the Gators, then a Hampton Tignor fly ball registered the second out of the visitors' turn at bat. At that point, Florida caught fire, as Matt den Dekker and Jon Townsend strung together back-to-back base hits before Avery Barnes reached on the error that allowed two unearned runs to score. Matt LaPorta then capped off the offensive outburst by putting one out in left field, allowing the Orange and Blue to carry a 4-0 lead back into the field with them when Cole Figueroa popped up to end the inning.
Florida center fielder Matt den Dekker went one for three, scored two runs, and batted in one run, but these achievements proved useless when he encountered the doomsday machine as the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Constellation.
The Red and Black had no response, as all three Georgia batters grounded out in the bottom of the third. No player for either team reached base in the fourth frame and the top of the fifth inning was highlighted only by Tignor's single and subsequent stolen base. The Diamond Dogs got a little something going in the bottom of the stanza, when a solo home run by Lewis put the Bulldogs on the board and a Miles Starr single generated at least a little additional offense but failed to produce another run.
Not content to hold a 4-1 advantage of the sort that proved so unavailing for the home team on Friday night, the Gators set about building on their lead in the top of the sixth inning. LaPorta led off with a home run and, after Figueroa popped up, Austin Pride recorded the base hit that drove Dodson from the mound after facing 23 batters and allowing six hits.
By "Austin Pride," I mean the Gators' left fielder, not this. (Photograph from Joey Castillo.)
The Gator left fielder stole second base, took third on a Chris Petrie groundout, and scored on a wild pitch by Alex McRee. Barber then grounded out to end the inning. Georgia attempted to generate some spark in the home half of the frame, but Beckham's single to center field was sandwiched between a series of flyouts that once again prevented a Bulldog baserunner from scoring.
The seventh inning began with a base on balls drawn by Tignor, who was thrown out at second when den Dekker hit into a fielder's choice. Townsend drew a walk, as well, and a passed ball advanced both Gator baserunners. After Barnes struck out, LaPorta was walked intentionally.
This brought Figueroa to the plate and the Florida shortstop responded with a base hit that plated two runs and got McRee pulled in favor of Iain Sebastian, who struck out Pride to conclude the seventh stanza with the Gators holding an 8-1 advantage. Robbins led off the bottom of the inning with a base hit, but three straight groundouts followed in rapid succession to bar the Bulldog designated hitter from cutting into the visitors' commanding lead.
The eighth inning began with Florida holding a slight 7-6 edge in hits, but the Big Lizards sought to say something about that, beginning with Petrie's single to center field. A Barber groundout advanced the Gator left fielder and a base hit by Tignor put him on third. A sacrifice fly by den Dekker brought Petrie home before Townsend stared at strike three to end the inning.
Florida third baseman Jon Townsend went one for four at the plate, yet he scored two runs. Also, he stole that whole windmill thing from Keith Richards.
The bottom of the eighth frame was without drama, as the top of the Georgia order went in succession on a pair of groundouts and a flyout. LaPorta parked a one-out single in left field in the top of the ninth inning, after which Figueroa grounded out to advance the Florida first baseman.
When Sebastian plunked Jonathan Pigott, Dean Weaver came on to close out the contest and, after throwing the wild pitch that advanced both Florida baserunners, the Georgia closer coaxed a flyout from Petrie. This brought the Diamond Dogs back to the plate, where the Red and Black flied out to left, right, and center fields in three successive at-bats to conclude the game.
Honestly, it is getting so reporting on a Georgia baseball game is like reviewing a Flock of Seagulls song; if you read the last one, you know everything that's going to be written in the next one. The Red and Black were held scoreless in eight out of nine innings and failed to earn a hit in any of their last nine at-bats. The first six batters in the Bulldog lineup (Jonathan Wyatt, Ryan Peisel, Gordon Beckham, Matt Olson, Rich Poythress, and Matt Robbins) collectively went four for 24 with no runs and no R.B.I. The opposition had only four more hits than Georgia (10-6) yet scored eight more runs (9-1). The only line of the box score on which the Classic City Canines led was in errors (1-0).
You have heard it all before and, unless this team finds a way to turn it around, you are going to hear it again and again and again.