Although Saturday afternoon's principal sporting event was the G-Day game (with respect to which I will have a report to offer in a day or two), the Diamond Dogs also had a baseball game in Oxford, Miss., where they dropped a heartbreaker on Friday night.
The contest began with consecutive outs being recorded by Georgia's first two batters. Despite a start that was anything but promising, Jonathan Wyatt dropped a single into center field before Rich Poythress put a home run over the wall in that part of the park, staking the visitors to a 2-0 lead before Matt Olson went down swinging.
Stephen Dodson drew the pitching assignment for the Classic City Canines and he started by striking out Jordan Henry. After that, however, the Red and Black hurler surrendered a walk to Justin Henry, a double to Zack Cozart, and an R.B.I. groundout to Cody Overbeck that scored the Ole Miss left fielder before he coaxed the flyout from Logan Power that ended the first frame with the score standing at 2-1.
When you hear the name "Logan," you think of him, too.
No player for either team reached base in the second stanza, but the third inning began with a bunt single by Mike Freeman, who took two bases on back-to-back errors during unsuccessful pickoff tries. The next two Diamond Dogs struck out and, after Wyatt drew a base on balls to put runners at the corners, Poythress grounded out to squander the scoring opportunity.
The side was retired in succession in the home half of the frame and a Luke Stewart walk was all either squad had to show for the fourth stanza. Georgia managed nothing more than a two-out double by Gordon Beckham in the top of the fifth inning, but the Rebels attempted to get something going in the bottom of the canto.
Andrew Clark and Fuller Smith got their half of the fifth underway with consecutive base hits and both baserunners advanced on an Evan Button sacrifice. Nevertheless, both players were left stranded by a Brett Basham flyout and a Jordan Henry groundout. This preserved the visitors' one-run lead through five frames.
As a native Georgian, I am obligated to post a picture of Button Gwinnett following the mention of any other person with the name "Button."
Poythress led off the sixth inning with a double to left field. The Georgia first baseman advanced to third on an error when Olson reached on a fielder's choice, which allowed Poythress to score when Ryan Peisel grounded into a double play. Following a base hit by Stewart, Joey Lewis stared at a called third strike to conclude the top of the stanza.
After Justin Henry grounded out, Ole Miss went about reclaiming the run the home team had just surrendered. Cozart reached base on an error and took second, enabling the Rebel shortstop to score an unearned run on an Overbeck double. The next two Mississippi batters registered outs to keep the margin at 3-2.
Beckham's two-out single in the top of the seventh inning caused the home team to change pitchers and the new Rebel hurler promptly picked off the Bulldog shortstop. No Ole Miss batter made it as far as first base in the bottom of the frame. After a Wyatt single proved to be the Diamond Dogs' lone highlight of the top of the eighth canto, the Rebs went back to work on offense.
Jordan Henry led off with a base hit and Justin Henry drew a walk. A Cozart sacrifice advanced both baserunners and a subsequent flyout by Overbeck brought home the tying run. Power struck out to preserve the deadlock heading into the ninth frame, which began with a Peisel walk. When Jake Crane drew a base on balls, as well, Scott Bittle was sent to the mound for the Rebels.
Georgia pinch hitter Jake Crane walked, but he did not write The Red Badge of Courage.
The third Mississippi pitcher of the afternoon struck out Lewis before walking Freeman to load the bases for Matt Cerione. The Red and Black left fielder recorded the R.B.I. groundout that scored Peisel and allowed the Diamond Dogs to retake the lead. Beckham flied out to keep the score 4-3 and bring Dean Weaver on in relief of Dodson, who had faced 32 batters in eight innings' worth of work, during which he surrendered five hits, two walks, and two earned runs.
Clark began the bottom of the ninth by drawing the walk that brought Peyton Farr to first base as a pinch runner and JoJo Tann to the plate as a pinch hitter. Tann popped up and Button flied out, so it fell to Alex Kliman to make up the deficit for the home team. Instead, he grounded out to end the game.
This was the win the Diamond Dogs needed. Although Georgia only outhit Ole Miss by an 8-5 margin, the visiting team got six hits in 12 at-bats from Gordon Beckham, Rich Poythress, and Jonathan Wyatt, who between them scored three runs. Dodson gave the Red and Black the very definition of a quality start and the Classic City Canines never trailed.
While there were missed opportunities, the Bulldogs at long last came out on top in a close one, which was well overdue and which sets the stage for a meaningful Sunday showdown to settle the series tomorrow.