The Diamond Dogs found themselves at Foley Field on Friday night, where they began a three-game weekend series with top-ranked Vanderbilt. The Commodores came into the game one win shy of 40 victories for the season and the Red and Black arrived at the ballpark two setbacks short of 30 losses for the campaign.
Stephen Dodson was on the mound to begin the game and David Macias opened the proceedings by grounding out to start the first inning. Thereafter, however, Alex Feinberg belted a double into right field and Dominic de la Osa parked a triple there to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead. Pedro Alvarez went down swinging and Ryan Flaherty flied out to strand the Vandy right fielder 90 feet from home, but already the Commodores had gone out in front.
George C. Scott isn't remotely relevant to the topic at hand, but, since a recent comment contained a Patton reference, it seemed appropriate under the circumstances.
In the home half of the initial stanza, Ryan Peisel led off with a groundout, but Jonathan Wyatt followed that up with a base hit. Unfortunately, Gordon Beckham hit into the fielder's choice that cut down the Georgia center fielder before being picked off himself to end the inning. Dodson retired the side in the top of the second frame on a strikeout, a popup, and a groundout.
The Red and Black went three up and three down in the bottom of the second inning, as well, so Vanderbilt came immediately back up to bat and Shea Robin got the third stanza underway with a base hit. Macias's ensuing single moved the Commodore catcher into scoring position and Feinberg sacrificed him over to third. After a de la Osa sacrifice fly plated Robin, Alvarez flied out to conclude the visitors' turn at the plate.
When Joey Lewis watched a called third strike sail by in the bottom of the frame, the Diamond Dogs' prospects did not appear promising. Then, though, Travis Parrott and Mike Freeman registered consecutive singles to put two men aboard and, after Peisel hit into a fielder's choice, Wyatt reached on an error to load the bases for Beckham. The Georgia shortstop knocked a base hit into center field, scoring a pair of unearned runs to even the hits at four apiece and tie the score at 2-2.
After Rich Poythress hit into a fielder's choice to end the inning, the Commodores went right back to work in the top of the fourth frame. Flaherty took first base on a single to center field and advanced to second on a wild pitch. The next three Vanderbilt batters struck out, grounded out, and popped up, respectively, to leave the visiting shortstop standing at second base.
The home half of the stanza began with a bang, as well. Matt Olson singled to start the Diamond Dogs' turn at the plate and Matt Robbins's ensuing base hit put two men aboard for Lewis, who popped up to record the first out of the inning. This put Parrott in a position to be the hero and he responded by smacking a single into right field to give the Red and Black the lead.
Georgia left fielder Travis Parrott was two for five with an R.B.I. and a run, which ain't bad for a talking bird.
After Freeman went down swinging, Peisel put the ball into play and loaded the bases. Wyatt's ensuing base hit brought home two more runs. Beckham flied out to end the home team's turn at the plate, but not before Georgia had assumed a 5-2 advantage. Dodson sat down the side in sequence in the top of the fifth frame.
Poythress led off the bottom of the inning with a base hit to center field and Olson moved him over to second with a groundout. Although Robbins walked to put two men aboard with only one out, the next two Bulldog batters struck out to strand the Georgia first baseman in scoring position.
Vanderbilt got things going with a de la Osa double to start the sixth stanza. The Commodore right fielder scored on an Alvarez single and, after Flaherty reached base on a fielder's choice, Matt Meingasner hit a two-run shot to left field to tie the game at five runs per side. The next two batters recorded outs to conclude the visitors' turn at the plate.
Freeman led off the bottom of the frame with a bunt single and Peisel grounded out to advance the Red and Black second baseman to his usual spot on the field. When Wyatt walked, Beckham loaded the bases with a single. Unfortunately, a Poythress strikeout and an Olson flyout prevented the home team from reclaiming the lead.
A Feinberg walk was all either team had to show for the seventh frame, as the other six batters between them produced three groundouts and three strikeouts. At the outset of the eighth inning, Dodson was relieved after he had faced 30 batters, striking out five and walking one while allowing eight hits and five earned runs.
Kristin Davis applauded the efforts of Stephen Dodson, despite being overcome by an ominous sense of dread regarding the Georgia bullpen.
Justin Earls took over on the mound and he sneaked a called third strike past Alvarez to get things going. After surrendering a single to Flaherty, Earls induced Meingasner to ground into a double play. Vanderbilt switched pitchers in the eighth stanza, as well, and the new Commodore hurler gave up a base on balls to Freeman to start the home half of the canto.
A sacrifice groundout by Peisel and a base hit by Wyatt took Freeman as far as third, but, after Beckham struck out and Poythress walked, Olson once again recorded the final out of the inning with the bases loaded. Brad French flied out and Ryan Davis walked to begin the top of the ninth inning, whereupon Earls was succeeded on the hill by Joshua Fields.
The Red and Black closer coaxed a groundout from Robin before matters began unraveling swiftly. An error in the ensuing at-bat put runners at the corners and Feinberg drew the walk that loaded the bases for de la Osa. The Commodore right fielder dropped a double into center field to score three unearned runs before Alvarez stared at a called third strike.
As the home half of the final frame commenced, the visitors held an 8-5 advantage in runs, the home team had a 13-10 lead in hits, and each squad had committed one error. Robbins got the bottom of the canto off to a promising start by drawing a leadoff walk, but Luke Stewart struck out swinging to dampen the Diamond Dogs' prospects for a comeback.
After Parrott's grounder advanced the Georgia designated hitter into scoring position and registered the penultimate out, Freeman drew the walk that brought the potential tying run to the plate. Peisel grounded out to end the game.
I had expected going in that the Music City Sailors were going to beat the Classic City Canines by something like a 17-1 margin, so, theoretically, I ought to feel pretty good about losing a competitive game. That, however, is a theory that has failed to hold up to empirical evidence, because what I feel instead is annoyance, irritation, and at least a hint of outrage.
How does this keep happening? The home team outhit the visitors by three hits yet lost the game by three runs. The Red and Black's leadoff hitter (Ryan Peisel), cleanup hitter (Rich Poythress), and designated hitter (Matt Robbins) combined to go three for 12 at the plate and, between them, they batted in no runs.
Matt Olson likewise failed to garner an R.B.I., despite coming to the plate with the bases loaded in both the sixth and eighth innings. In each instance, the game was tied and the Bulldog right fielder had the opportunity to give the home team the lead with a single swing of his bat; in each instance, the Red and Black proved incapable of pushing a run across home plate. Over the course of the contest, Georgia batters struck out 11 times.
When Justin Earls left the game, there was one man on and one man out in a game that appeared headed for extra innings. To that point, the Georgia pitching staff had faced 35 batters and surrendered only five runs. Needing one out, the Classic City Canines instead committed an error, awarded Alex Feinberg his second walk of the evening, and gave up an extra-base hit to Dominic de la Osa (3 for 4, 1 run, 5 R.B.I.). Did anyone not see the meltdown coming?
The Commodores got their 40th win. The Diamond Dogs suffered---and suffer is the only word suitable to describe the manner in which the Red and Black insist upon losing---their 29th defeat . . . and counting.