The Diamond Dogs arrived at Foley Field on Friday trailing a four-game losing streak and looking to rebound against Gardner-Webb. In order to do this, the home team would have to overcome the offensive anemia of a lineup weakened by youthful inexperience and featuring only one starter with a batting average above .300.
Nathan Moreau took the hill for the Red and Black in the top of the first frame and his initial efforts showed promise, as he retired the side by striking out Jamaal Kinard, Matt Rizzuto, and Josh Drewery in succession. This brought the home team up to bat, but the Bulldogs fared no better, managing only a popup by Jonathan Wyatt and groundouts by Ryan Peisel and Gordon Beckham.
From the Classic City Canines' perspective, the second stanza began much more ominously than did the inaugural inning. Justin Loyd led off by drawing a base on balls, then Jeremiah Lokken sacrificed the G.W.U. third baseman over to second. O.J. McFarland registered the first hit of the evening by dropping a single into center field to put runners at the corners with but a single out recorded.
Despite the fact that she went one for three on Friday, Gardner-Webb first baseman Jeremiah Lokken was pretty cool in "Terminator 3."
Fortunately for the home team, an unsuccessful steal attempt produced the second out of the inning, after which Joey Testa flied out to squelch the threat. The Red and Black undertook to break the deadlock in the bottom half of the frame, when consecutive singles by Matt Olson and Luke Stewart placed the Diamond Dogs in the same situation as Gardner-Webb in the top of the inning, with runners on first and third with one out. A similar ending greeted Georgia, though, as Jake Crane flied out and Travis Parrott hit into a fielder's choice, stranding the Bulldog right fielder 90 feet from home plate.
Daniel Cooke grounded out to get the third inning underway, but a single and a stolen base by Tyler Johnson allowed a Kinard single and a Rizzuto groundout to plate a run before Drewery ended the visiting Bulldogs' turn at bat. Once again finding themselves in the familiar position of trailing at home, the Red and Black did little to aid their cause in the bottom of the inning, tallying only a pair of walks before allowing a trio of outs.
Moreau continued to perform effectively in the top of the fourth frame, striking out two of the first three batters he faced and inducing the third to ground out to second base. This kept the home team within striking distance on the scoreboard and the Classic City Canines at long last began to take advantage of their opportunities in the bottom of the inning.
G.W.U. second baseman Matt Rizzuto went hitless in three at-bats at Foley Field. Frankly, I expected more from a Rizzuto.
Joey Lewis led off by staring at strike three and Olson put a loud out into center field to follow up, but Stewart thereafter commenced the comeback by drawing a base on balls. Crane's subsequent single to left moved the Red and Black first baseman into scoring position and, when Parrott likewise put a base hit into left field, the bases were loaded for Miles Starr.
When the Georgia second baseman was plunked, the score was tied, then Wyatt drew the walk that gave the Diamond Dogs the lead. Peisel and Beckham belted out base hits to plate three more runs before the third out was recorded. The top of the fifth frame, while not without its dramatics, came to naught for G.W.U., which managed to tally a single and a walk but which still trailed 5-1 at the halfway mark.
The Diamond Dogs padded their lead when a walk by Stewart and base hits by Parrott and Wyatt generated a sixth run for the Red and Black. Gardner-Webb attempted to mount a comeback in the following frame, but a two-out double by Lokken failed to produce additional scoring, as McFarland struck out looking to end the visiting Bulldogs' turn at bat.
Although he was one for three at Foley Field, Gardner-Webb catcher O.J. McFarland remains well-known for his role as Spanky on "Our Gang."
Georgia, meanwhile, broke the game open in the home half of the sixth stanza. Lewis sandwiched a base on balls between doubles by Beckham and Olson, producing a seventh run, after which walks by Stewart and Crane added to the Diamond Dogs' tally. A sacrifice fly by Parrott scored Olson, then a G.W.U. wild pitch moved the runners over, allowing a Starr single to add to the home team's advantage.
Starr stole second base, then Wyatt walked. After Peisel popped up, a passed ball moved all three runners ahead by one base, scoring the Red and Black catcher. When Beckham walked and Lewis was plunked, a final run was brought home. Mercifully, Olson fouled out to end the carnage.
After that point, the action largely consisted of going through the motions. At the outset of the seventh frame, Iain Sebastian came on in relief of Moreau, who went six innings, struck out seven, walked two, and surrendered just five hits and one run. No Gardner-Webb student-athlete made it past first base in the seventh and, amid numerous defensive substitutions, the bottom of the inning generated no fireworks more compelling than Parrott reaching on an error.
Travis Parrott's family looked on approvingly from the stands as the Georgia left fielder went two for four with an R.B.I. and a run.
The eighth inning likewise passed quietly, with a Drewery single in the top of the frame and a Mike Freeman base hit in the bottom of the stanza constituting all of the heroics by either squad. Adam McDaniel succeeded Sebastian on the mound to close out the contest and the ninth inning consisted of a flyout, a strikeout, and a groundout to conclude a 12-1 Georgia victory.
We among the Georgia faithful should take care not to read too much into the Red and Black's series-opening victory over the visiting Bulldogs, who came into the game with a 7-9 record that included losses to Winthrop, N.C. State twice, and North Carolina by a combined score of 28-6.
Nevertheless, the Classic City Canines amassed twice as many hits (12) as the competition (6) and the reshuffling of the Georgia lineup had a salutary effect, as leadoff hitter Jonathan Wyatt and designated hitter Joey Lewis combined to score a pair of runs and collect three R.B.I. in five at-bats.
Joey Lewis walked, was hit by a pitch, scored a run, and earned an R.B.I. If Lewis continues at this pace, he'll rank right up there with such famous Joeys as the dumb guy from "Friends," the fellow who had the affair with Amy Fisher, and, of course, the former child star who is famous for saying, "Whoa!"
The Diamond Dogs also showed patience at the plate, striking out only half as many times (5) as they walked (10). As a team, Georgia batted .333 on Friday evening, representing a dramatic improvement over the squad's overall batting average of .261 coming into the contest. While Georgia has hit only five home runs in its first 13 games, the Red and Black at long last are starting to generate some runs.
The hometown Bulldogs came into the game sporting a 4-8 ledger and clinging to the hope that, in 2007, as in 1980, the Classic City Canines could turn a 4-8 start into a 33-12-1 finish following a 13-game winning streak. While I am not yet optimistic about Georgia's prospects for the rest of the spring, I am somewhat hopeful that the Red and Black can sweep G.W.U. this weekend and defeat Western Carolina on Tuesday to even their record heading into next weekend's showdown with Auburn in Athens.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and, while Friday night's baseball victory was only a single step, it was, at long last, one pointed in the right direction.