The Diamond Dogs found themselves on the road on Thursday evening as they traveled to Columbia to take on seventh-ranked South Carolina in their season-ending series. The Gamecocks came into the contest sporting a 38-15 ledger that included a 15-12 conference mark.
The first frame got underway when Ryan Peisel fouled out to lead off the top of the inning. After Jonathan Wyatt grounded out, Gordon Beckham drew a base on balls and stole second. Rich Poythress was hit by a pitch to put the Georgia shortstop in scoring position for Matt Olson, but the Bulldog right fielder grounded out to bring the home team up to bat.
Although I am fulfilling my obligation to post a good luck photograph of Kristin Davis at the outset of my baseball game report, I went with a picture of her clad in black to indicate that I am in mourning over the horrible news of Paul Oliver's academic ineligibility.
The Palmetto State Poultry wasted no time in asserting themselves. Travis Jones turned an 0-2 pitch into a leadoff single and James Darnell immediately brought him home with a double to left field. Justin Smoak's ensuing groundout moved the Gamecock third baseman to his usual spot on the field and Phil Disher grounded out to plate the second South Carolina run. Andrew Crisp lined out to conclude the opening canto with the home team holding a 2-0 advantage.
The Red and Black went three up and three down in the top of the second stanza and the Big Chickens appeared likely to do likewise in the home half of the frame after Trent Kline flied out and Harley Lail struck out to record the penultimate out of the inning. Steven Reinhold, however, belted a base hit into right center field to put a man aboard for Reese Havens.
The Gamecock shortstop dropped another base hit into left field, moving the South Carolina center fielder to second base. Jones then drove a home run out to right center field to stake the home team to a 5-0 advantage. The Palmetto State Poultry looked as though they would build on that commanding lead when Darnell singled to center field and Smoak walked, but Disher turned the first pitch he saw into a flyout to conclude the second inning.
Miles Starr reached base on a fielding error to start the visitors' half of the third frame, but a foulout, a strikeout, and a groundout from the next three Georgia batters prevented the Bulldog second baseman from advancing. Mercifully, the Gamecocks went in order on a flyout, a lineout, and a groundout in the bottom of the inning.
Georgia second baseman Miles Starr went one for three and scored a run, which may explain why he has his own comic book.
The Red and Black saw the side retired in sequence in the top of the fourth frame and the home team returned the favor by failing to produce a baserunner in the bottom of the canto. After Travis Parrott grounded out to start the visitors' turn at the plate in the fifth inning, Joey Lewis punched the first pitch thrown his way into left field for a double. Starr's subsequent groundout moved the Bulldog catcher to third, but Peisel popped up to strand the baserunner.
After no South Carolina batter made it as far as first base in the bottom of the inning, the Diamond Dogs finally began to show some signs of life in the top of the sixth stanza. After Wyatt led off by flying out, Beckham belted a double into right field and took third base on a wild pitch. Poythress followed that up with a base hit to score the Georgia shortstop.
Olson recorded a single, as well, but Matt Robbins struck out and Parrott grounded out to leave two men on base and the home team holding a 5-1 lead. Although the Gamecocks' advantage hardly seemed imperiled, the Palmetto State Poultry set about defending their turf in the bottom of the frame.
After Crisp led off with a groundout, Kline and Lail registered back-to-back base hits. Stephen Dodson plunked Reinhold to put three men aboard for Havens, whose sacrifice fly to center field scored a run. Jones thereafter put one out to left field to break the game open and give the Big Chickens a commanding 9-1 lead. Darnell lined out to prevent matters from getting even farther out of hand.
South Carolina center fielder Steven Reinhold went one for three and scored two runs, but he'll still never live down that time Phoebe Cates walked in on him in the bathroom.
Although Lewis went down swinging at the outset of the seventh inning, the Red and Black showed at least a little spark when Starr singled to left field and Peisel put one in the cheap seats to plate a pair of runs. The next two Georgia batters recorded outs to keep the deficit at 9-3, however.
Alex McRee succeeded Dodson on the mound in the bottom of the frame after the Classic City Canines' starter had faced 29 batters and surrendered nine hits and nine earned runs. The Red and Black reliever retired the first three batters he faced on strikeouts.
The Diamond Dogs attempted to get something going in the top of the eighth canto after Poythress fouled out to open the visitors' turn at the plate. The first pitch thrown to Olson ended up in right center field for a double and the Georgia right fielder took third base on a Robbins foulout. Unfortunately, Parrott put the first pitch he saw into play, resulting in the groundout that stranded a man on third.
The Red and Black began the bottom of the inning with another pitching change as Iain Sebastian took over on the mound and proceeded immediately to walk the first two batters he faced. After Sebastian struck out Reinhold, he was relieved by Steve Esmonde, whose first pitch produced a flyout from Havens. It was all downhill from there.
Sebastian faced three batters, gave up a pair of walks, surrendered two earned runs, recorded one out, and played Mr. French on "Family Affair."
Jones walked to load the bases for Darnell, who singled to left field to bring home a run. Smoak's subsequent base hit brought in two more runs and Disher's double to left field plated yet another. Crisp finally went down swinging to conclude the bloodletting, but not before the Palmetto State Poultry had built up a 13-3 advantage.
The ninth inning was free of drama. Lewis stared at an 0-2 pitch that was called strike three. Luke Stewart swung at an 0-2 pitch and missed. Peisel worked the count to 3-1 before popping up to end a game with a final score that seemed to come out of a Georgia-South Carolina football game from the 1970s.
The Diamond Dogs fell in predictable fashion. Despite playing errorless baseball and being outhit only by a 12-7 margin, Georgia was annihilated on the scoreboard, dropping behind 5-0 after just two innings and giving up eight runs in the final three frames. The first four hitters in the Bulldog lineup combined to go three for 15 and the Classic City Canines struck out seven times while walking only once.
The Palmetto State Poultry, by contrast, were on a tear, as the top three batters in the South Carolina order collectively went seven for 13, scored half a dozen runs, and tallied 10 R.B.I. Meanwhile, the visitors stranded seven baserunners while falling far short of providing a challenge to what clearly was the better team.