The Diamond Dogs came into Saturday afternoon's outing riding a five-game winning streak, with a chance to clinch an S.E.C. series victory after Friday night's win over Tennessee. Before the largest crowd to have taken in a game at Foley Field this season, the Red and Black got the better of the Volunteers in a one-run game.
Stephen Dodson got the start for the Classic City Canines and he retired the side in sequence in the top of the first inning on a groundout, a flyout, and a pop-up. Gordon Beckham registered the only Georgia hit in the bottom of the canto when he singled to third base off of Bryan Morgado.
Tennessee took an early lead when Jeff Lockwood led off the second stanza with a home run to center field. After the next two Volunteer batters recorded outs, a P.J. Polk single and a Tanner Moore double combined to add another run. Danny Lima grounded out to keep the score 2-0.
Walks by Matt Olson and Bryce Massanari provided the only Georgia baserunners in the home half of the frame, but neither Diamond Dog came around to score. After leading off the top of the third stanza with back-to-back flyouts, Tennessee loaded the bases on a Ryan Peisel error, a Lockwood walk, and a hit batsman. Fortunately, Shawn Griffin was thrown out at first base to prevent the visiting Vols from building on their lead.
Tennessee designated hitter Jeff Lockwood went one for three on Saturday, drawing one walk and batting in one run. Nevertheless, he is most famous for having played Commander Gary Mitchell in the "Star Trek" episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before."
The Red and Black drought continued in the bottom of the third canto, when the home team went three up and three down, but the Big Orange's bats were equally silent in the top of the fourth frame, as Tennessee registered a trio of groundouts. Georgia fared only marginally better in the bottom of the inning, which produced but one Bulldog hit, although that lone hit took the form of the Rich Poythress home run to left field that cut the deficit to 2-1.
Consecutive one-out singles by Kentrail Davis and Cody Brown in the top of the fifth frame came to naught when Lockwood went down swinging and Davis was caught stealing. The closest thing to an offensive outburst the Diamond Dogs would generate over the course of the afternoon came in the home half of the canto, which Massanari led off with a base on balls.
After the next two batters produced a pair of outs, Peisel dropped a double into right field to move the Georgia designated hitter over to third. Michael Demperio walked to load the bases for Beckham, who knocked a single to left field, took second on the throw, and sent two runs across the plate. Poythress went down swinging to strand two, but the home team had taken a 3-2 lead.
Neither team produced a baserunner in the sixth stanza and Dean Weaver relieved Dodson at the outset of the seventh frame after the Georgia starter had permitted five hits, one walk, and two earned runs to the 25 batters he had encountered. Moore drew a leadoff walk but was picked off at first base. Lima walked and stole second after Andy Simunic flied out to right field, but Davis went down swinging to conclude the canto.
In two innings' worth of work, Dean Weaver walked two, struck out two, and allowed neither a hit nor a run. Nevertheless, he is most famous for having played Marshal Sam McCloud in the "NBC Mystery Movie" rotation alongside "Columbo" and "McMillan and Wife." (Note: A variation of this same joke would work with Georgia softball, as well.)
The Diamond Dogs went in order in the home half of the inning, as did the Volunteers in the top of the eighth frame. Beckham's bunt single in the bottom of the stanza came to nothing after Poythress grounded into a double play, so it all came down to Tennessee's final turn at the plate.
Naturally, Joshua Fields was called upon to pitch the top of the ninth inning. Griffin led off by grounding out but Polk made things interesting by placing a triple in center field. With the tying run standing 90 feet from home plate, Fields coaxed Moore into staring at a called third strike and induced Lima to ground out to short to render the bottom of the ninth superfluous.
Despite committing the game's only error and being out-hit by the opposition (6-5), the Diamond Dogs scratched and clawed their way to a win, drawing only four walks but stranding only four baserunners in a pitchers' duel. I have no idea why Gordon Beckham (3 for 4, 2 R.B.I.) doesn't draw four intentional walks per game, but I'm glad the opposition is fool enough to pitch to him, particularly when the solid combination of Stephen Dodson, Dean Weaver, and Joshua Fields is holding the first four batters in the Tennessee order (Andy Simunic, Kentrail Davis, Cody Brown, and Jeff Lockwood) to a combined three for fifteen performance at the plate with only one run batted in between them.
The Diamond Dogs got down early, but they didn't panic and they didn't let it get worse, even when the visitors loaded the bases in the third. The Red and Black stayed in the game and took a narrow lead in the middle innings. The Classic City Canines held on to win despite every opportunity to blow the game: Tennessee had a runner in scoring position in the seventh and a runner on third base with one out in the ninth, but the Volunteers were unable to tie the contest or retake the lead. David Perno's squad is developing into a quality baseball team and it is starting to look like Georgia can make some noise in the S.E.C.