Fresh off of a stirring come-from-behind victory on Saturday and a series-clinching win on Sunday, the Diamond Dogs returned home on Tuesday evening to do battle with Western Carolina in a hard-fought contest which the Red and Black claimed by an 8-3 margin.
Following a scoreless first frame, the Catamounts leapt into the lead in the second stanza. W.C.U.'s Ryan Mathews recorded a two-out double, Dylan de Graaf was plunked, and both baserunners advanced on a balk, putting each in a position to score when Tyler Kirkpatrick knocked a single into center field.
The visitors maintained their 2-0 lead through the midpoint of the fourth inning, when Western Carolina starter Drew Saberhagen was removed after facing ten batters, surrendering a pair of walks, and giving up neither a hit nor a run. On came Matt Benedict, who issued a leadoff walk to Michael Demperio to begin the bottom of the canto.
Gordon Beckham made the W.C.U. reliever pay in the next at-bat, when the Georgia shortstop blasted yet another home run to left field to tie the game. After Rich Poythress walked and Joey Lewis moved him over to second on a groundout, Matt Olson dropped a double into center field to give the Classic City Canines the lead.
This go-ahead run was brought to you by Go Ahead! Chicken & Herb Crispy Bites. (O.K., not really . . . but you will be supporting Dawg Sports if you get yourself a 2008 S.E.C. men's basketball championship T-shirt. We thank you for your support.)
Benedict was yanked in favor of Geoff Turner, who persuaded Bryce Massanari to pop up but thereafter surrendered the base hit to Lyle Allen which scored Olson. When Matt Cerione walked, as well, Turner was pulled and was succeeded by Daniel Ottone. The latest Catamount hurler gave up an R.B.I. single to Ryan Peisel before letting the Bulldog third baseman advance on a balk.
Demperio returned to the batter's box and drew his second base on balls of the inning. An error by the Western Carolina catcher allowed Peisel to score an unearned run and a wild pitch permitted Cerione to cross home plate, as well. By the time Beckham flied out to center field, the damage had been done and the Diamond Dogs held a 7-2 advantage.
The Catamounts tried to chip into the Georgia lead in the top of the fifth frame but made little headway. A two-out walk by W.C.U.'s Matt Johns, followed by a stolen base and a Brent Greer single to left field, generated a lone run, but the visitors' scoring ended there.
The Red and Black took that run back in the bottom of the sixth stanza, when Peisel singled and Demperio once again walked to drive Tyler Sexton from the mound in favor of Brandon Johnson. The latest Western Carolina hurler was charged with an error on a failed pickoff attempt that permitted both baserunners to advance. After Beckham walked, Poythress hit into the fielder's choice that scored Peisel.
In his only at-bat in the ninth inning, W.C.U. pinch hitter Barrett Shaft belted a single into left field. Can you dig it?
The Catamounts managed only two more hits over the course of the final three innings but managed to make matters mildly interesting in the final stanza. Joshua Fields was brought in to close out the game and he surrendered a base hit to Barrett Shaft and a walk to Nick Liles before tossing the wild pitch that put a runner at third base. After that, Fields was Fields, striking out Johns, Greer, and Blake Murphy in succession.
Although Justin Grimm got the start, Alex McRee got the win. Between them, they pitched five innings, allowing six hits, three walks, and three earned runs. The top three batters in the Georgia order (Ryan Peisel, Michael Demperio, and Gordon Beckham) together went four for nine with six walks, batting in a trio of runs. The Catamounts out-hit the Classic City Canines (8-6), but the visitors also committed more errors (3-0) and stranded more baserunners (10-8).
Western Carolina can be a pesky opponent---on the diamond, if not on the gridiron---so I do not entirely discount Tuesday's win, but neither do I assign it particular significance. The important thing is that the Red and Black have improved to 9-7 and continued their winning ways, which is right where we want them to be at this point.