After going 3-2 on last week's road swing, the Diamond Dogs returned to Foley Field for "dollar dog" night and a date with the Wofford Terriers in the Classic City on Tuesday night. The contest began with Trevor Holder on the mound and he retired the first three batters he saw in the top of the first frame, striking out two of them. In the home half of the inning, the Red and Black wasted little time in building a lead.
After Ryan Peisel led off by grounding out, Jonathan Wyatt drew a walk and Gordon Beckham brought the Georgia center fielder home on a double to left field. Following a Rich Poythress groundout, the Bulldog shortstop took third base on a wild pitch and came home on a Matt Olson single. Luke Stewart grounded out to conclude the canto with the Red and Black holding a 2-0 advantage.
The Terriers went three up and three down in the top of the second stanza, but the Diamond Dogs got the bottom of the frame underway with a Travis Parrott double. Mike Freeman drew a walk after Jake Crane lined out and Peisel's subsequent single to left field brought the Bulldog left fielder home.
Kristin Davis intently watches the Georgia-Wofford baseball game while wondering whether the Red and Black will find some soul-crushing way to let this one slip away, too.
The Georgia third baseman advanced to second on a wild pitch and, although Wyatt went down swinging, Beckham was plunked to load the bases for Poythress, who reached on an error that plated a pair of unearned runs. Olson closed out the scoring with a base hit to center field to bring Beckham home, as well. Stewart's ensuing groundout once again ended the inning, this time with the Red and Black holding a 6-0 advantage.
Only an error by the Georgia shortstop allowed a Wofford runner to reach base in the top of the third frame, but Holder held the remaining three Terrier batters to a flyout, a strikeout, and a popup. The home half of the stanza began as the previous inning had, with a double by Parrott. This time, though, Crane was hit by a pitch and Freeman dropped a base hit into center field to score the Bulldog left fielder.
A passed ball allowed both remaining baserunners to advance, opening the base that Peisel took on a walk. When Wyatt hit into a fielder's choice, Crane scored to make it 8-0. Poorly thrown balls enabled Wyatt to take second base on a wild pitch and Beckham to take first base after being plunked.
This marked the end of the line for Wofford starting pitcher Jordan Mickleberry, who surrendered seven hits, three walks, and five earned runs to the 21 batters he faced. Whit Kennedy took over for the Terriers, persuading Poythress to chase strike three and coaxing a groundout from Olson.
"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Wofford pitchers, who will face 15 batters, allow only one hit, surrender no earned runs, and strike out three while walking three, with one wild pitch thrown in for good measure! Vote Quimby!"
Although Holder had encountered 10 batters and recorded four strikeouts without surrendering a walk, a run, or a hit, the fact that it was a weeknight non-conference outing of no real significance meant that Jason Leaver was called upon to pitch the top of the fourth frame. The new Georgia hurler retired the side in sequence, striking out two of the three Terriers he encountered. The Red and Black went in order in the bottom of the inning, as well.
A solitary base on balls was all Wofford had to show for the opening half of the fifth frame, but Freeman led off the bottom of the canto with a base on balls. After the next two Diamond Dogs registered outs, Beckham walked, as well, then both baserunners advanced on a wild pitch before Poythress grounded out to keep the home team from building on its lead.
A leadoff walk for Wofford in the top of the sixth stanza was negated when the next batter hit into a double play. The bottom of the inning started with a groundout, but Matt Robbins dropped a double into center field in the next at-bat. After Parrott walked, the next two Georgia batters struck out to strand the baserunners.
The pitching duties fell to Iain Sebastian in the top of the seventh frame, but the no-hitter he inherited did not last long. After striking the first batter he faced with a pitch, Sebastian persuaded the next batter to fly out before surrendering a two-run homer to John Brandt. The next two Terriers recorded outs, but the score now stood at 8-2.
The Wofford left fielder's home run in the seventh stanza was the most noteworthy achievement by a member of the Brandt family since John's sister, Brandi, appeared on an episode of "Married With Children" and in an Aerosmith video.
The Diamond Dogs took back the lost ground in the home half of the inning, commencing with Peisel's leadoff single. A base hit by Wyatt put two men aboard and a passed ball allowed the Georgia third baseman to score. After a Beckham base hit advanced the Bulldog center fielder to third, a Poythress sacrifice fly plated another run.
Olson smacked a double into center field, moving Beckham over to third, and Robbins's sacrifice fly scored the Georgia shortstop, as well. Parrott then flied out to end the inning, but the Red and Black had extended their advantage to 11-2. A two-out single was the sum total of the Terriers' achievements in the top of the eighth frame.
The first two Georgia batters in the bottom of the inning were retired on a strikeout and a groundout, but Peisel doubled to center field and moved over to third base on a passed ball. Following a Blake Cannady walk, Miles Starr belted out a single to score an unearned run. When Clayton Cain flied out, the contest proceeded to the final canto with the home team holding a 12-2 advantage.
Sebastian ostensibly elected to make the top of the ninth stanza exciting, as he gave up a leadoff single to Shane Kirkley and allowed the Wofford second baseman to move into scoring position on a wild pitch. The Georgia reliever thereafter served up a home run ball to Brandon Waring before getting a groundout and a flyout from the next two batters.
Kirkley only went one for three on Tuesday night, but his buddies Spockley and Dataley cheered him on, anyway. (Not pictured: Dr. McCoyly.)
Thereafter, though, Sebastian gave up a base hit to Chuck Eller, who took second base on a passed ball. Kyle Behrendt's subsequent single scored the Wofford center fielder and Mo Seay's ensuing double plated the Terrier pinch hitter. Inasmuch as Sebastian had allowed seven hits and six earned runs to the 16 batters who had crossed his path, it was time to bring on Steve Esmonde, who got Mike Gilmartin to ground out to first base.
Naturally, I am pleased that the Red and Black got the win, although there is a limit to how much we can take away from Tuesday night's victory. The Terriers arrived in the Classic City sporting a 21-24 ledger and the Georgia win reminded Bulldog Nation of some of the glaring weaknesses in this team.
The Diamond Dogs doubled up the Terriers in runs (12-6) and in hits (14-7), but the encouragement offered by the early innings was dampened somewhat down the stretch, as Wofford outscored the Classic City Canines 6-4 in the final six innings. Gordon Beckham (2 for 2, 3 runs, 1 R.B.I.), Matt Olson (3 for 5, 2 R.B.I.), Travis Parrott (2 for 4, 2 runs), and Ryan Peisel (3 for 5, 3 runs, 1 R.B.I.) all had good days at the plate, but still 13 men were left on base by the Red and Black.
While I was heartened by the Bulldogs' late-inning surge to recapture lost ground, the cooling of Georgia's bats after the early going and Iain Sebastian's complete meltdown on the mound in the ninth frame provided cause for concern as the Diamond Dogs look ahead to their weekend series with top-ranked Vanderbilt.