One day after their win over Georgia Tech at Turner Field, the Diamond Dogs traveled to Cullowhee, N.C., for a rain-delayed date with the Western Carolina Catamounts, who defeated the Red and Black in Athens last month.
The game got off to a promising start when Ryan Peisel led off the top of the first inning with a double down the right field line. However, W.C.U. starting pitcher Tyler Johnson proceeded to strike out Jonathan Wyatt and Rich Poythress while coaxing a groundout from Gordon Beckham, leaving the Georgia third baseman in scoring position.
In the bottom of the frame, Alex McRee struck out the first two Catamount batters he faced before persuading Steven Strausbaugh to fly out on a full count. The Red and Black went in order in the top of the second stanza, enabling Western Carolina to get on the board first in the home half of the canto.
Since last night's picture of Raquel Welch obviously brought the Red and Black good luck, I figured it was worth trying again tonight. . . .
Jonathan Greene and Kenny Smith opened the proceedings with consecutive singles to put runners at the corners. Following John Ingram's strikeout, Blake Murphy put a sacrifice fly into center field to score the Catamount left fielder. When Smith was caught stealing at second, the Classic City Canines came back up to bat trailing 1-0.
The third canto commenced with a Travis Parrott groundout. Although the next two Bulldog batters both received bases on balls, the initial recipient of a free pass to first was caught stealing for the second out of the visitors' turn at the plate. Wyatt's subsequent strikeout ended Georgia's chances.
Nick Liles began the home half of the inning with a base hit and took second on a sacrifice bunt. Barrett Shaft then walked and, although two of the next three W.C.U. batters struck out, the other Catamount at-bat produced a double to left center field, plating a pair of runs to give Western Carolina a three-run lead. The Diamond Dogs flied out, lined out, and fouled out in sequence to start the fourth frame.
The Catamounts went back on the offensive in the bottom of the inning. Smith led off with a home run and, although the next two W.C.U. batters registered outs, the two immediately after that each walked, with the first of these taking two extra bases on a wild pitch and an error.
With runners at the corners and Western Carolina threatening to build on a 4-0 advantage, David Perno sent Steve Esmonde to the mound. Once the Georgia reliever convinced Shaft to fly out, the Red and Black finally decided to address the predicament in which they found themselves. Matt Robbins went down swinging before Jake Crane took first base on a throwing error and the next three Bulldog batters singled to score a couple of runs.
When Wyatt walked to load the bases, Chris Masters replaced Johnson on the hill. The W.C.U. reliever got Beckham to pop up, but an unearned run crossed the plate when Poythress reached on an error and Matt Olson's ensuing single brought Peisel the rest of the way around, as well. Although the Georgia center fielder was put out at third on the play, the two teams were tied at four runs and five hits apiece midway through the contest.
It's nice that Chris Masters and Tyler Johnson were able to pitch together on the same team after performing all that groundbreaking research together all those years ago.
When Brent Greer reached base on a throwing miscue by Beckham to start the home half of the stanza, the teams likewise were tied at two errors apiece. The Western Carolina shortstop had put the first pitch he saw into play and Strausbaugh did likewise, popping up to the pitcher on a failed bunt attempt. Greene, too, swung at the initial ball thrown his way, belting out the single that moved Greer to second base.
Seeing how well it had worked for his teammates, Smith also went after Esmonde's first pitch, doubling to left field to score the unearned run that allowed the Catamounts to resume the lead. Ingram took first base on a walk before Murphy's sacrifice fly plated Greene. Liles grounded out to strand a pair of baserunners, but not before Western Carolina had gone back out in front by a 6-4 margin.
Parrott drew a two-out walk in the top of the sixth stanza and advanced to second when Mike Freeman reached on an error, but the Bulldog left fielder was left there when Peisel popped up to bring the Catamounts back to the plate and Adam McDaniel out to the mound. Greer reached on an error, giving each side a trio of miscues to mar its box score, but the other three W.C.U. batters struck out, grounded out, and flied out to close out just the second scoreless inning of the game.
In the top of the seventh canto, Beckham sandwiched a base hit between Wyatt and Poythress flyouts, but Olson struck out swinging to conclude another unproductive turn at the plate by the Classic City Canines. The home team had nothing to show for the bottom of the frame.
Corey Martin took over the hurling duties for the Catamounts at the outset of the eighth inning, falling behind Luke Stewart before surrendering a double to left field on a 3-1 count. Joey Lewis punched a single through the left side to give the Diamond Dogs an 8-7 lead in hits and bring the would-be go-ahead run to the plate with no outs.
The pitching duties then fell to Tyler Sexton, who got two strikes on Parrott before surrendering an R.B.I. double to the Bulldog left fielder. Freeman grounded out to score Lewis and tie the game at six runs per side. Peisel worked the count full before fouling out, then Sexton's first pitch to Wyatt plunked the Georgia center fielder.
When Greg Holland was brought on to pitch, Wyatt advanced to second. The new W.C.U. reliever gave up a run-scoring single to Beckham, who proceeded to steal second base. This put a pair of Bulldogs in scoring position and Poythress brought them both home with a single through the right side.
After Olson's double to left center scored Poythress and Stewart's double to left center scored Olson, Western Carolina made its fourth pitching switch of the inning. The latest man to take the mound, Bryan Corbett, gave up back-to-back base hits to Lewis and Parrott, the latter of which plated Stewart. Corbett finally sneaked strike three past Freeman to record the elusive third out of the eighth inning, but not before the Diamond Dogs had opened up a 12-6 lead on the Catamounts.
Murphy led off the bottom of the frame by drawing a walk on four straight pitches from Iain Sebastian. The Western Carolina catcher stole second, took third on an error, and came home when Adam Baker was put out at first base. This was all the home team had to show for the penultimate frame, however.
At the start of the ninth canto, Daniel Ottone became the seventh W.C.U. pitcher of the night. After giving up a leadoff single to Peisel, he coaxed a groundout from Clayton Cain. Peisel was put out at second on the play and Beckham flied out to bring the home team back up to bat trailing by five runs.
It fell to Ryan Woolley, the fifth Bulldog pitcher of the night, to secure the requisite outs to earn the visitors the victory. Woolley sat down Greer on a called third strike before surrendering a single to Strausbaugh. The Catamount right fielder took second on an error and stole third, but Greene went down swinging and Smith grounded out to conclude the slugfest.
"I hate people who get the words wrong. It ain't 'Woolley,' it's 'weary' and nobody's got stress, they're wearing a dress."
Pretty baseball it was not. The Diamond Dogs were guilty of five errors and the home team scored in five different innings. Georgia's offensive outbursts were confined to a couple of cantos, including a stunning eight-run, nine-hit eighth inning in which the Red and Black scored six runs with two outs against them.
Ryan Peisel once again proved well suited to the leadoff role, going three for five with one run and two R.B.I. at the top of the Georgia order. The Classic City Canines also got multi-hit games out of Gordon Beckham (2 for 6, 1 run, 1 R.B.I.), Joey Lewis (2 for 2, 1 run), Matt Olson (2 for 5, 1 run, 2 R.B.I.), Travis Parrott (3 for 4, 2 runs, 2 R.B.I.), and Luke Stewart (2 for 2, 2 runs, 1 R.B.I.). The Red and Black collected twice as many hits (16) as the Catamounts (8), outscoring the home team 12-3 in the final five frames.
Although the Diamond Dogs' pitching once again was roughed up to a greater degree than I would have liked, it was impressive to see the Georgia bats once more coming to life. With a critical road series on the horizon in Lexington this weekend, the Red and Black will need all the firepower they are able to muster if they are to put together a respectable finish to what has been an exceedingly disappointing season.