Sunday was a big day for the Diamond Dogs because it marked the last time Georgia was scheduled to play a Ron Polk-coached Mississippi State squad. (The visitors' show of class during the exchange of lineup cards, when every Red and Black player came out and shook Coach Polk's hand, was a well-earned respectful gesture to a good coach and a fine man.) However, Sunday also was a big day for the Classic City Canines because, after a loss on Friday and a win on Saturday, they needed the victory to clinch the series. It took them ten innings, but they got it.
Georgia leapt out to a quick start, commencing with Ryan Peisel's leadoff walk in the top of the first canto. The Red and Black third baseman took second on a throwing error by M.S.U. hurler Ricky Bowen and advanced an additional 90 feet on a Lyle Allen groundout bunt. Gordon Beckham's ensuing single plated Peisel.
When Rich Poythress put the first pitch he saw into play and reached on a fielding error, Beckham moved over to third. After Matt Olson grounded out, a wild pitch brought Beckham home to give the Classic City Canines a 2-0 lead. Bryce Massanari went down swinging to strand Poythress at third base.
Nathan Moreau made short work of the home team in the bottom of the frame, in which Grant Hogue popped up, Nick Hardy grounded out, and Jason Nappi struck out to bring the Red and Black back up to bat. All Georgia had to show for the second stanza was a two-out walk by David Thoms, who was picked off to end the inning.
M.S.U. first baseman Tyler Moore went one for four on Sunday afternoon, but, even so, he's going to make it after all.
Mississippi State made its move in the bottom of the second canto. Cody Freeman began the proceedings with a base hit down the left field line and Connor Powers followed that up with a single of his own. Although Tyler Moore popped up to register the first out of the inning, a wild pitch advanced both baserunners, enabling Russ Sneed to bring a run home by sending the first pitch thrown his way through the left side for a base hit.
Johnny Allen drew a walk to load the bases for Jet Butler, who popped up to register the second out of the inning. A Hogue single plated Powers and Sneed before Hardy flied out to conclude the canto with the home team holding a 3-2 advantage. The visitors attempted to answer in the top of the third frame, when Poythress followed up a two-out walk by Beckham with a base hit, but Olson turned the next pitch into a flyout to end the inning.
A one-out single by Freeman in the bottom of the third stanza earned Moreau the hook after the Georgia starter had locked horns with thirteen batters and allowed five hits, one walk, and three earned runs. Nick Montgomery came on in relief and elicited a lineout from Powers and a pop-up from Moore.
Both teams then settled into a lengthy dry spell. Following a leadoff double by Massanari in the top of the fourth canto, the next three Red and Black batters recorded outs on a pop-up, a flyout, and a groundout. Consecutive two-out singles by Butler and Hogue in the home half of the inning proved fruitless when Hardy went down swinging.
Mississippi State designated hitter Jeff Flagg went without a hit in three at-bats and struck out twice, but he will always occupy a special place in the hearts of women everywhere for having written Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.
Neither team produced a baserunner in the fifth frame and the only intrigue to be found in the sixth stanza took the form of a one-out walk by Olson in the top of the canto and a leadoff single by Moore in the bottom of the inning. Neither runner made it as far as third base.
Peisel's two-out single produced the only fireworks to be found in the visitors' half of the seventh stanza, but the Georgia third baseman was cut down on a fielder's choice in the ensuing at-bat. Mississippi State went three up and three down in the home half of the frame.
Beckham began the eighth inning with a bang by belting a base hit to lead off the Classic City Canines' turn at the plate. Following a Poythress flyout and an M.S.U. pitching change, Olson went down swinging, which persuaded the Georgia shortstop that he would have to take matters into his own hands. Accordingly, Beckham stole second base to put himself in scoring position for Massanari, whose single up the middle tied the game at three runs apiece. Adam Fuller turned the next pitch into an inning-ending groundout.
Alex McRee retired the side in succession in the bottom of the eighth canto and the Red and Black went in order in the top of the ninth frame. When the home half of the final scheduled stanza generated only a flyout and a pair of strikeouts, the contest went to extra innings.
We can put a man on the moon, but we can't create a Google image search that will come up with a decent picture of a ten-year-old boy holding up a newspaper reading "Extra!" in a movie from the '40s, so I'm stuck giving you this cut-rate cartoon piece of crap.
A leadoff groundout in the top of the tenth stanza got matters off on the wrong foot, but Beckham quickly remedied that situation, stepping into the batter's box and putting the first pitch he saw out to left field for the home run that gave Georgia a 4-3 advantage. Poythress followed that up with a ground-rule double and, after Olson stared at a called third strike, Massanari added an insurance run with a base hit up the middle. Fuller lined out on the next pitch.
Joshua Fields took the mound in the bottom of the tenth inning and promptly secured a flyout from Hogue. Ryan Collins made matters more interesting with a double down the right field line, but the Georgia closer coaxed a groundout from Nappi and persuaded Jeff Flagg to swing at strike three to secure the victory for the Classic City Canines.
Sunday's series-settling showdown was a nerve-wracking affair, but, despite a handful of missed opportunities, the Diamond Dogs put it all together to pull out the win. Gordon Beckham (3 for 4, 1 walk, 2 R.B.I.) emphatically broke out of his brief slump and the Red and Black likewise enjoyed good days at the plate from Rich Poythress (2 for 5) and Bryce Massanari (3 for 5, 2 R.B.I.). Nathan Moreau may have gotten the hook a little early, but the four Georgia relievers between them faced 27 batters, allowed four hits, recorded nine strikeouts, and gave up neither a walk nor a run.
In a game as even as this one---the contest went to extra innings and each team finished with nine hits---it may be fair to attribute Georgia's ability to score two more runs to the mere fact that Mississippi State committed two more errors, but the effect of those M.S.U. miscues was overcome by the end of the second inning; after that, although the visitors might have been accused of relying too much on the long ball to bail them out of jams, the Classic City Canines found a way to win en route to claiming their third S.E.C. series victory of the season.