The Diamond Dogs came into Sunday afternoon's outing against Kentucky having already clinched the series victory with wins over the Wildcats on Friday and Saturday. The Classic City Canines' hopes for sweeping the three-game set hinged upon the left arm of Nathan Moreau, who came into the contest with a 1-1 record and a 3.60 earned run average. Although Sunday's starting pitcher was less than at his best, the Red and Black earned their eighth straight Southeastern Conference victory.
Moreau issued a leadoff walk to Ryan Wilkes in the top of the first frame. After striking out Collin Cowgill, the Georgia starter served up a home run ball to Sawyer Carroll. The next two Bat Cats registered outs, but Moreau already found himself in a 2-0 hole. The first two Bulldog batters in the bottom of the canto grounded out before Gordon Beckham sent a single into right field. Rich Poythress then hit into the fielder's choice that ended the inning.
Moreau again surrendered a leadoff walk at the outset of the second stanza, this time issuing a base on balls to Troy Frazier. Chris Wade sacrificed him over to second, but the next two Kentucky batters recorded outs to strand the Wildcat designated hitter in scoring position. The Red and Black undertook to get on the board in the bottom of the frame, beginning with Bryce Massanari's single to center field and subsequent stolen base.
Lyle Allen grounded out to move the Bulldog designated hitter over to third and, after Joey Lewis was hit by a pitch, Matt Cerione hit into a fielder's choice to score Massanari. Michael Demperio then grounded out to conclude the proceedings. Moreau surrendered a leadoff home run to Wilkes in the top of the third canto, but, aside from walking Carroll, he retired the remaining Blue and White batters who crossed his path in the inning.
Wildcat left fielder Keenan Wiley went one for four, struck out once, and neither drew a walk nor batted in a run, so his efforts to outdo his more accomplished cousin, Noah, once again were stymied.
The only Diamond Dog to reach base in the bottom of the stanza was Matt Olson, who reached on an error by Wade but was thrown out at second. In the top of the fourth frame, Alex McRee was brought in for Moreau, who had lasted only three innings but had given up three walks, two hits (both of which were home runs), and three earned runs to the 14 batters he had encountered.
The Bulldog reliever persuaded Frazier to fly out before surrendering a base hit to Wade. Marcus Nidiffer went down swinging before Keenan Wiley doubled to right field to advance the Kentucky shortstop to third. Wilkes struck out to strand him there, though. Poythress began the home half of the canto with a base hit to right field, but he subsequently was caught stealing.
Allen followed up a Massanari lineout with a single to center field and a subsequent single by Lewis moved the Georgia left fielder into scoring position. Cerione then reached on the fielder's choice that ended the threat and preserved the visitors' 3-1 advantage. Cowgill began the fifth frame with a walk before stealing second and taking third on a Carroll groundout.
After Brian Spear walked to put runners at the corners, Chris McClendon was plunked to load the bases for Frazier, whose sacrifice fly scored Cowgill before Wade went down swinging to prevent the Bat Cats from building on their 4-1 advantage. This left the door at least partially open for a Red and Black comeback in the home half of the inning, and the Classic City Canines at least partially passed through it.
Kentucky center fielder Collin Cowgill was held without a hit in three at-bats on Sunday and he failed to bat in a run. I think it's high time he went back to irritating bloggers on ESPN Radio.
Demperio sent a leadoff single into right field and, although Ryan Peisel ended the Georgia second baseman's time on the basepaths by hitting into a fielder's choice and Olson flied out to left field, Beckham put one out over the center field wall to plate a pair of runs. Poythress's and Massanari's ensuing singles produced a U.K. pitching change but no additional runs, as new Wildcat hurler James Paxton succeeded in striking out Allen to preserve the visitors' one-run advantage.
Dean Weaver came on to pitch the top of the sixth stanza and he retired the side on a flyout, a strikeout, and a groundout. A leadoff single by Lewis in the bottom of the frame was nullified when Cerione hit into a fielder's choice and Demperio lined into a double play. The Bat Cats went three up and three down in the top of the seventh inning.
The home half of the canto commenced with a Peisel flyout, but Olson singled in the next at-bat and Beckham grounded out to move the tying run into scoring position. Poythress and Massanari then drew back-to-back bases on balls to put three men aboard for Allen, but, before the Georgia left fielder had the chance to put the ball into play, a wild pitch by Paxton scored Olson to tie the game.
Allen then plated Poythress with an R.B.I. single to give the home team the lead. This prompted another Kentucky pitching change, which was followed by a Lewis flyout to send the contest to the eighth inning with the Diamond Dogs holding a 5-4 edge. Weaver retired the side in the top of the frame on a groundout, a flyout, and a strikeout.
Wildcat designated hitter Troy Frazier failed to collect a hit in a pair of at-bats on Sunday. Unfortunately for the game's announcing crew, "Down goes Frazier!" was already taken as a sports broadcasting call.
The first two Diamond Dogs to enter the batter's box in the bottom of the canto registered outs, after which Peisel was hit by a pitch. This brought Andrew Albers to the mound and the U.K. reliever surrendered a single to Olson before throwing the wild pitch that advanced both baserunners. After Beckham drew an intentional walk to load the bases, the hurling responsibilities devolved upon Tyler Howe, who walked Poythress to score Peisel before striking out Massanari.
The top of the ninth inning got underway with Georgia holding a two-run lead and Joshua Fields standing on the pitcher's mound. The Bulldog closer issued a leadoff walk to Bryan Rose before persuading Wiley to pop up and convincing Wilkes to fly out on the first pitch thrown his way. Perhaps believing that only having the tying run, rather than the go-ahead run, in the batter's box presented too little in the way of drama, Fields walked Cowgill before coaxing a pop-up from Carroll to secure the victory.
Admittedly, when a team commits no errors in a home game in which that team out-hits the opposition by a 13-4 margin, as the Diamond Dogs did on Sunday, there should be no need for late-inning heroics to pull out the win. No Bat Cat had a multi-hit game while the second through seventh hitters in the Georgia lineup tallied a pair of hits apiece. The Red and Black bullpen gave up one earned run in six innings' worth of work.
Obviously, it would have been preferable had the Classic City Canines not left eleven men on base, but, while they made it harder than it had to be, the Diamond Dogs nevertheless overcame a 4-1 deficit at the halfway point of the fifth frame to outscore the opposition by a 5-0 margin in the final four stanzas. Now 35 games into its 55-game slate, Georgia is 13-7 against ranked opponents and 12-3 in S.E.C. play, giving the Red and Black a three-game lead in the league over Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee, all of which are 9-6 in conference contests.