The Diamond Dogs drew a tough assignment in the opening outing of their trip to Omaha for the College World Series, as the Red and Black were the visiting team against No. 1 national seed Miami, which came into the game favored to win not just the contest, but the tournament as a whole. Nevertheless, Georgia pulled off the upset with a dramatic 7-4 victory over The U.
The Hurricanes’ Chris Hernandez made short work of the Classic City Canines in the top of the first frame, retiring the first three batters he saw and eliciting strikeouts from two of them. Trevor Holder had a bit more trouble with The U in the home half of the inning, as he struck out Blake Tekotte but gave up a massive blast to Jemile Weeks to give Miami a 1-0 lead.
Yonder Alonso added insult to injury by drawing a walk and taking second on a Mark Sobolewski groundout. Fortunately, Dennis Raben went down swinging to prevent further damage from being done. Georgia had only a trio of strikeouts to show for the visitors’ half of the second stanza.
Although Adan Severino registered a base hit after Ryan Jackson’s leadoff strikeout in the bottom of the canto, Dave DiNatale erased the Hurricane left fielder’s single by grounding into a double play. This gave the Red and Black an opportunity in the top of the third inning, and the Diamond Dogs took advantage of their chance.
It began when Joey Lewis led off with a first-pitch double to left field. Lyle Allen put down the sacrifice bunt that advanced the Bulldog designated hitter to second and, after Miles Starr grounded out, a Ryan Peisel single up the middle plated Lewis to tie the game. Matt Olson hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice in the ensuing at-bat.
To no one’s surprise, the No. 1 team in the country had an answer at the ready. Yasmani Grandal drew a leadoff walk on a payoff pitch to start the home half of the canto and Tekotte followed it up with a two-run shot to right field to put the Hurricanes back out in front. A big inning thereafter appeared to be brewing, as Weeks and Alonso drew bases on balls in succession, but Holder pitched his way out of the jam by striking out Sobolewski and Raben then extracting a flyout from Jackson.
Rich Poythress’s one-out base hit in the top of the fourth frame was negated by Bryce Massanari’s ensuing double-play ball, whereas Miami sandwiched a Grandal single amid the trio of flyouts which rendered the Hurricane catcher’s effort useless in the bottom of the stanza.
The fifth frame was more of the same for the Diamond Dogs, who saw a one-out single by Lewis nullified when Allen grounded into a double play in the top of the inning. In the home half of the canto, Alex McRee came on in relief of Holder and the ‘Canes notched three straight flyouts.
Five innings into the contest, top-seeded Miami held a 3-1 lead in runs and, although the two teams had registered four hits apiece, the Hurricanes clearly were hitting the ball harder, having launched a pair of home runs and given the Georgia outfield a real workout as the Diamond Dogs were forced to make one solid defensive play after another until, ultimately, the Red and Black starter was chased from the game.
In the sixth stanza, however, matters began to turn in the Classic City Canines’ favor. Starr singled in the opening at-bat of the top of the canto and Peisel tied the game with a home run in the ensuing plate appearance. Following Olson’s first-pitch flyout to left field, Gordon Beckham sent a single into left field, only to be caught stealing prior to Poythress’s inning-ending groundout.
McRee’s first pitch in the bottom of the frame produced a groundout, but the Georgia reliever found himself in trouble after surrendering a single and a stolen base to Jackson and walking Severino on a 3-2 pitch. Although the next two Hurricane batters likewise worked the count full, though, McRee nevertheless managed to extract strikeouts from both of them.
The seventh stanza started to get interesting when Matt Cerione drew the one-out walk on four straight pitches that ended Hernandez’s tenure on the hill. Kyle Bellamy was sent in to face Robbie O’Bryan, who reached on a fielder’s choice. Allen’s ensuing single put a runner in scoring position and a subsequent passed ball allowed both baserunners to advance, but David Thoms went down swinging to strand them both.
McRee retired the first two batters in the bottom of the canto, but Alonso’s solo shot to left center field broke the deadlock and brought Dean Weaver in from the bullpen. The new Georgia hurler got Sobolewski to ground out on a payoff pitch. A two-out Beckham walk produced the only Diamond Dog baserunner in the top of the eighth frame, as Poythress stared at a called third strike to end the inning.
Jackson sent a one-out single through the left side in the home half of the stanza, but Severino struck out in the next at-bat, at which point Joshua Fields came in from the bullpen and struck out DiNatale to bring the Red and Black back up to bat needing to score at least one run before recording three outs.
Carlos Gutierrez came in to pitch the top of the ninth inning and his first pitch was returned up the middle for a base hit by Massanari, who was replaced on the basepaths by Adam Fuller. A Cerione groundout moved the pinch runner over to second and, although O’Bryan struck out in the ensuing at-bat, he nevertheless reached first on a wild pitch.
Steve Esmonde was sent in as a pinch runner for O’Bryan and Allen’s ensuing single sent him to second and, more importantly, plated Fuller to tie the game. Thoms put the first pitch he saw into play and Gutierrez’s throwing error on the play allowed the Bulldog second baseman to reach third base and enabled Esmonde and Allen to score.
Peisel singled through the left side to plate an insurance run, but the Georgia third baseman was caught stealing and Olson went down swinging to bring Fields back to the mound needing to obtain three outs before allowing three runs in the home half of the stanza. For once, the Bulldog closer didn’t make it look dramatic; he simply elicited a foulout from Grandal and flyouts from Tekotte and Weeks to close the books on the Red and Black victory.
Fueled by the efforts of Ryan Peisel (3 for 5, 4 R.B.I.) and Lyle Allen (2 for 3, 1 R.B.I.), the Diamond Dogs out-hit the Hurricanes by an 11-7 margin. Although The U was ripping the cover off the ball for a while, the top of the order (Blake Tekotte, Jemile Weeks, and Yonder Alonso) combined to go three for eleven and the fourth through ninth hitters in the Miami order did not have so much as a single R.B.I. between them.
Georgia pitchers notched ten strikeouts while surrendering just five walks. While Trevor Holder had his struggles, his was a respectable outing, as the Georgia starter went four frames, faced 19 batters, and gave up three earned runs. In five innings’ worth of work, the Bulldog bullpen allowed three hits, one walk, and one earned run.
Stanford, which also upset a favored Sunshine State squad with a ninth-inning surge in a tight ballgame on Saturday, will face the Diamond Dogs on Monday evening for the right to continue proceeding through the winners’ bracket as David Perno and his team endeavor to cap off a successful season with the ultimate prize in the College World Series.