On the day that Mark Richt was presented with pineapples shipped to Athens by the mayor of Honolulu in honor of the worst shelling Hawaii has absorbed since Pearl Harbor, David Perno's Diamond Dogs went west to take on two-time defending national champion Oregon State. You may recall that the Beavers swept a three-game series in Athens last winter, beginning a dismal baseball season for Georgia.
What was already scheduled to be a late start for the jet-lagged visitors was pushed back to an even later start due to the strong possibility of rain in a state whose two Division I-A universities both have mascots with webbed feet, but the proceedings at long last got underway around 11:00 Eastern time on Friday evening with Mike Stutes on the mound for the Beavers and Ryan Peisel in the batter's box for the Red and Black.
The Georgia third baseman led off the first inning and, as he had in the exhibition game against the Braves, demonstrated his suitability for batting at the top of the order by putting the first pitch he saw into right field for a triple. Michael Demperio's ensuing groundout brought Peisel home, and, just like that, the Classic City Canines held a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs did not produce so much as another baserunner, as Gordon Beckham popped up and Rich Poythress struck out to bring the Beavers up to bat in the bottom of the first frame. The visitors assigned the initial pitching duties to Trevor Holder, who coaxed Chris Hopkins to ground out in Oregon State's first at-bat before surrendering a game-tying home run to Joey Wong.
Hey, won't you play another somebody done some Joey Wong song?
Jason Ogata followed that up with a base hit up the middle before Jordan Lennerton conceded the home team's second out on a fly ball to right field and Daniel Robertson grounded out to prevent further damage from being done. Joey Lewis did not get the second inning off to a promising start, as the Georgia catcher struck out to begin the visitors' turn at the plate, but Matt Olson fouled off a pair of pitches before drawing a walk.
This put a man aboard for Joshua Fields, who stood in not as the Diamond Dogs' closer but as the squad's designated hitter, and who did not see a single pitch located outside the strike zone before striking out swinging. This, in turn, put Lyle Allen in a position to break the deadlock, but the Georgia left fielder responded by flying out after getting ahead in the count 3-0.
The Beavers wasted no time in seizing the advantage in the bottom of the second stanza. John Wallace punched the second pitch he saw into right field for a double, then the O.S.U. left fielder took third base on a passed ball. Although Drew George reached base in the next at-bat, he did so only by hitting into the fielder's choice that cut down Wallace on his way home. Ryan Ortiz then grounded into the double play that ended the threat.
In the top of the third canto, Matt Cerione led off by lining out and Peisel struck out on three pitches. Demperio at least fouled off a couple of pitches before swinging at strike three. Oregon State, meanwhile, went immediately back on the offensive in the bottom of the inning, as Lonnie Lechelt put the first pitch thrown his way into center field for a single and Hopkins put down a sacrifice bunt to advance the Beaver second baseman to his usual spot on the field.
Lonnie Lechelt led off the home half of the third inning with a base hit. Also, he has the requisite initials for being someone significant in Superman's life.
Fortunately, Wong failed to duplicate his earlier heroics, putting a fly ball into center field for the second out of the inning. Ogata did likewise to conclude the canto and bring the Bulldogs back up to bat in the top of the fourth frame. After Beckham began the visitors' turn at the plate with a triple down the right field line, Poythress put Stutes's first pitch into play, grounding out to score the go-ahead run.
Lewis built on the Classic City Canines' newfound advantage by driving a home run down the left field line to give the Diamond Dogs a 3-1 lead. Olson did his part to keep the inning going by notching a base hit, but the Georgia right fielder was caught stealing and Fields worked the count full before striking out to conclude the proceedings.
This brought Holder back out to the mound for the bottom of the fourth frame. The Georgia starter struck out Lennerton and induced Robertson to ground out before surrendering the fifth Oregon State hit of the night on a Wallace single to left field. This unfortunate turn of events was erased, however, when the Beaver left fielder was caught stealing and thrown out at second base.
The first pitch of the fifth inning was turned into an out by Allen and Cerione took Stutes to a full count before staring at a called third strike. Peisel walked on five pitches, but the Bulldog third baseman's presence on the basepaths was to no avail, as Demperio popped up to bring the contest to its halfway point.
While we're at the midpoint of the game, I should probably point out that William Howard Taft may have invented the seventh inning stretch.
Holder coaxed a pop-up from George at the commencement of the home half of the inning, but Ortiz succeeded in drawing a base on balls after falling behind in the count 1-2. A particularly ill-timed throwing error compounded the problem of a Beaver baserunner, allowing Lechelt to reach first and Ortiz to advance to third.
The O.S.U. catcher scored an unearned run off of Hopkins's sacrifice fly and Wong walked on four straight pitches to put the tying run on second base. A passed ball allowed both Beavers to advance 90 feet apiece and Ogata masterfully worked the count, getting ahead 3-1 and fouling off a pair of pitches until he got the one he wanted and drove it down the right field line for a home run and a trio of R.I.W.W.B.
In a move maddeningly typical of Coach Perno's pitching switches, Justin Earls was sent to the mound for the purpose of closing the barn door immediately after the horse's escape had been effectuated and he did his job, securing the flyout from Lennerton that ended the inning only after the home team had claimed a 5-3 advantage.
Undaunted by adversity, Beckham began the top of the sixth stanza by doubling down the left field line. Poythress flied out to right field to advance the Bulldog shortstop to third and Lewis put the very next pitch into play, punching a single through the left side to even the hits at six apiece and score Beckham to cut the O.S.U. lead to a lone run.
Joey Lewis's R.B.I. single in the sixth inning got Georgia right back into the game, but I still don't know why the French find him so darned funny.
Olson was issued a base on balls on a payoff pitch to put the tying run on second base, but Fields struck out swinging to leave him there. Stutes was then pulled in favor of Blake Keitzman, who threw the wild pitch to Bryce Massanari that allowed both baserunners to advance. The Georgia pinch hitter was then intentionally walked so that the Beaver reliever could get to Cerione, who struck out swinging on three straight pitches.
Robertson began the home half of the sixth inning by dropping the first pitch to cross his path into left center field for a double. The Oregon State right fielder took third base on a bunt single by Wallace, at which point Earls bore down and struck out Rob Folsom before turning right around and walking Ortiz to load the bases for Lechelt.
After the O.S.U. second baseman fouled out, Hopkins struck out to end a two-hit inning in which three men were left on base but, mercifully, no one scored, keeping the Diamond Dogs within striking distance of their hosts. The Classic City Canines, however, initially appeared to have little interest in closing that gap, as Peisel led off the seventh frame by grounding out and Demperio followed suit to register the visitors' second out of the inning.
Beckham then tried to get something going, punching a single into left field to put the tying run aboard and chase Keitzman from the game. The improbably-named Mark Grbavac entered the game for the Beavers and proceeded to give up a single to center field to Poythress, putting runners at the corners for the Red and Black. Lewis, alas, grounded out to strand both baserunners and keep the Bulldogs at a 5-4 deficit in runs despite the two teams' equal numbers of hits (8).
Dino carried you, you hack.
The unfavorable trends which began in the bottom of the fifth inning continued in the bottom of the seventh inning, which got underway with Wong taking first base on a Georgia throwing error. Ogata hit into a fielder's choice in the ensuing at-bat, but another throwing error by Massanari---his second miscue in as many chances---allowed the Beaver shortstop to make it all the way to third.
Wong did not stay there for long, as Lennerton belted a single down the left field line to score an unearned run. Robertson grounded into a double play and Wallace flied out in the ensuing at-bats, but the damage had been done and the home team had extended its lead to 6-4. The Diamond Dogs did little to address this situation in the top of the eighth frame, where a leadoff single by Olson was erased when Fields grounded into a double play. Massanari then struck out swinging to bring a swift end to the visitors' turn at the plate.
The bottom of the inning saw a Georgia pitching change, with Nick Montgomery taking over the hurling duties. He immediately struck out John Tommasini and Ortiz, then Lechelt popped up to bring the Bulldogs to the plate for their final chance. Cerione led off the top of the ninth stanza by drawing a walk, then he took second base on a passed ball.
This promising start suffered a setback when Peisel grounded out and matters were helped only minimally, if at all, when Demperio advanced the Georgia baserunner to third with a groundout of his own. The inning's third groundout---by Beckham, as if that mattered---ended a game in which the hits were all even (9-9) but a disparity in errors (3-0) doomed the Diamond Dogs in an outing in which the Red and Black's leadoff hitter (Ryan Peisel), cleanup hitter (Rich Poythress), and designated hitter (Joshua Fields) collectively went two for twelve while striking out five times and batting in one run.
The description remains fitting. (Image from Sock Heaven.)
Prior to the throwing of Friday evening's first pitch, Dawg Sports readers were asked how far the Classic City Canines would go this baseball season, and your answers were all over the map. The largest single bloc included 18 votes, and the smallest nine, with the other five options scattered in between.
Eighteen of 97 total respondents (18.6%) foresaw an N.C.A.A. tournament berth. Seventeen (17.5%) predicted an appearance in Omaha and an equal number thought the Red and Black had a chance to win it all. A dozen voters (12.4%) believed the Diamond Dogs would not make the postseason, exactly as many as thought Georgia would advance no farther than the S.E.C. tournament or, alternatively, would host a super-regional. Nine ballots (9.3%) had the Bulldogs falling in a super-regional away from Athens.
The new poll question calls upon you to settle a couple of ongoing debates, both in my household and on this weblog. My wife, despite the fact that she starting dating me while I had a beard, doesn't like the fact that I grew my beard back after thirteen years of being clean-shaven. Various observers have opined that, with the beard, I look like Lewis Grizzard, Obi-Wan Kenobi, George Lucas, or Evil Richt. (I left Stephen King off of the list of choices because, frankly, that idea creeps me out considerably.)
Now is your opportunity to tell me how I look with the beard. As with voting for me in last year's Hot Blogger Bracket hosted by the Ladies . . ., expressing an opinion upon this subject is in no way a reflection on your orientation . . . or even a commentary on whether you use "product" in your hair.