The Diamond Dogs' series-opening victory over Kentucky on Friday night certainly got the weekend off to a good start. The Classic City Canines came to the ballpark on Saturday having won eleven of their 18 showdowns against top 25 competition, eight of their previous ten outings, and six of their seven games against Eastern Division opponents.
While the Bat Cats still had a better overall record (26-6) than the Red and Black (21-12), the Diamond Dogs remained two games in front of their closest competitors in the conference standings, as Georgia sported a 10-3 mark in S.E.C. play. The next-best teams in the league, Florida and Ole Miss, each entered Saturday's action at 8-5 in conference contests. In short, Georgia had an excellent opportunity before it on Saturday and the team made the most of that opportunity.
The first inning got underway on Saturday afternoon with Bryan Rose in the batter's box and Stephen Dodson on the mound. After the Kentucky leadoff hitter flied out, Chris McClendon was allowed to reach base on an error by Gordon Beckham. Sawyer Carroll's ensuing single advanced the Wildcat third baseman to second and McClendon took third on a Collin Cowgill flyout. Brian Spear's subsequent flyout produced a much more favorable result for the Red and Black; namely, the end of both the visitors' turn at bat and the scoring threat.
In the bottom of the frame, another error by the shortstop put a man aboard; in this case, Chris Wade was responsible for the miscue that allowed leadoff hitter Ryan Peisel to reach first base. A double by Matt Olson sent the Georgia third baseman to his accustomed position on the field and, after Beckham received the latest in what is apt to be a long line of intentional walks, Rich Poythress registered the base hit to left field that plated an unearned run.
Kentucky shortstop Chris Wade committed two costly errors in the first two innings, making Saturday perhaps Wade's worst day since he lost the famous U.S. Supreme Court case on January 22, 1973. (Hey! That's two Roe v. Wade references in a four-day period! I am officially in the Constitutional law caption comedy zone!)
Bryce Massanari followed that up with a single of his own to score Olson and Beckham, after which Lyle Allen's sacrifice groundout advanced both baserunners. A Joey Lewis single in the ensuing at-bat brought Poythress home and an accompanying error by Keenan Wiley enabled the Bulldog catcher to come the rest of the way around, as well. Although Matt Cerione went down swinging and Lewis was picked off, the Red and Black nevertheless had succeeded in completing a four-hit, five-run inning with the aid of two U.K. miscues.
The Wildcats had nothing to show for the top of the second stanza except a trio of groundouts, so the Classic City Canines were allowed to go back to work immediately in the home half of the canto, once again owing partly to a Kentucky gaffe. For the second straight inning, the Georgia leadoff hitter reached base thanks to a Wade error and, also for the second straight inning, the ensuing Bulldog batter belted a double to move him over to third.
In this instance, Michael Demperio was the first Red and Black player to reach base and Peisel was the teammate who advanced him. An Olson single brought both baserunners home and a follow-up double by Beckham sent the Georgia right fielder to third. An errant throw by Wildcat hurler Scott Green not only walked Poythress, it produced the wild pitch that scored Olson. Massanari's subsequent groundout generated a double play yet still permitted Beckham to score an unearned run.
A double by Allen in the next at-bat went to waste when Lewis struck out swinging, but the four-hit, four-run, one-error canto left the home team with a 9-0 lead heading into the third inning. After the Bat Cats went three up and three down in the top of the stanza, Tyler Henry took over the pitching responsibilities for Green, who had gone two innings, faced 16 batters, conceded eight hits (four of which were doubles!), and surrendered five earned runs even apart from his teammates' three errors.
After a poor outing against the Red and Black on Friday night, Wildcat center fielder Collin Cowgill could not manage a hit, a walk, or an R.B.I. on Saturday, reminding us once again that what the Blue and White need . . . is more Cowgill!
Henry began his time on the mound by coaxing a groundout from Cerione and sneaking a called third strike by Demperio. Peisel and Olson registered back-to-back base hits but Beckham flied out to strand the baserunners. Carroll led off the top of the fourth frame with a home run to center field, putting the Bat Cats on the board at last, but Cowgill flied out and Ryan Wilkes grounded into an inning-ending double play after Spear dropped a single into right field.
Poythress responded to Carroll's affront by leading off the home half of the stanza with a home run of his own to re-establish the Diamond Dogs' nine-run advantage. The next two Classic City Canines recorded outs and, after Lewis dropped a single into left field, Cerione hit into the fielder's choice that concluded the canto.
Following a leadoff groundout by Tyler Howe to begin the visitors' half of the fifth frame, Wade knocked a double to center field and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Wiley lined out and Rose struck out to strand the Kentucky shortstop 90 feet from home plate, however. Each of the three Red and Black batters who came up to the plate in the bottom of the fifth canto grounded out in succession.
McClendon began the top of the sixth stanza with a base hit to center field and Carroll brought him around to score with a double to that same location. An error by Peisel allowed Cowgill to reach base and permitted Carroll to score an unearned run before Spear and Wilkes flied out, with the latter doing so to left field in order to bring Cowgill home. Howe went down swinging to conclude the three-run, two-hit, one-error canto that cut the home team's lead to 10-4.
(Insert your '70s C.B. radio reference here.)
A one-out walk by Poythress in the bottom of the frame was erased when Massanari lined into a double play and Wiley's one-out single in the top of the seventh stanza was negated when Rose reached on a fielder's choice and McClendon flied out to left field. Allen led off the home half of the canto with a groundout before Lewis drew a base on balls and Cerione singled to right field to move him over to second.
Demperio flied out then Peisel registered a base hit. Despite the fact that the Georgia third baseman was thrown out trying to reach second base, he was credited with an R.B.I. for bringing Lewis home. By the time the eighth inning began, Dodson had done his duty for the day, crossing paths with 29 batters over the course of seven stanzas in which he struck out two, walked none, allowed seven hits (two of which were doubles and one of which was a home run), but conceded just two earned runs. Nick Montgomery took over for Dodson in the top of the frame and began by walking Carroll.
The Georgia reliever then proceeded to retire the next three Bat Cats in succession to render the leadoff base on balls meaningless. Olson likewise walked to start his team's turn at the plate in the bottom of the canto and Beckham followed that up with a walk of his own. Although Poythress hit into a fielder's choice, yet another U.K. error allowed every Diamond Dog to reach the next base safely.
A wild pitch advanced each of the three baserunners, enabling Olson to score an unearned run. Massanari sent a sacrifice fly into center field to plate Beckham before the next two Red and Black batters recorded outs to wrap up the two-run, one-error, no-hit inning that gave the Classic City Canines a 13-4 lead heading into the final frame.
Please, Coach . . . don't let this happen again!
Montgomery remained in the game to pitch the top of the ninth stanza, striking out Howe before plunking Wade. Wiley struck out, as well, and Rose sent an 0-2 pitch into left field for the final flyout that clinched yet another S.E.C. series win for the Diamond Dogs.
The Red and Black tallied twice as many hits (14-7) while the Blue and White committed twice as many errors (4-2) in a contest in which the Classic City Canines held a 9-0 lead after two cantos yet kept the pressure on by matching their guests 4-4 over the final seven frames.
The first five batters in the Bulldog order (Ryan Peisel, Matt Olson, Gordon Beckham, Rich Poythress, and Bryce Massanari) combined for ten hits, five walks, and eight runs batted in over the course of an outing in which the Red and Black stranded only six baserunners and struck out only three times.
The victory improved Georgia's conference mark to 11-3. Elsewhere around the league, Florida defeated Arkansas to move to 9-5 in S.E.C. action and Ole Miss achieved the same record by defeating L.S.U., so the gap by which the Diamond Dogs lead the league did not increase. That, though, is a worry I am happy to have as the Classic City Canines look ahead to Sunday in search of an eighth straight conference victory and a second consecutive S.E.C. series sweep.