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Georgia 10, Stanford 8

Well, I told you to expect a close game, didn’t I? A nerve-wracking final frame narrowed the gap in what had bordered on being a blowout, but, at the end of the day, the Diamond Dogs did what they had to do, notching a 10-8 victory over Stanford to eliminate the Cardinal and secure a trip to the College World Series for the Red and Black.

The top of the first inning began with Jeremy Bleich on the mound and Ryan Peisel in the batter’s box. The Stanford hurler won the initial battle, as the Georgia third baseman lined out to right field. Matt Olson followed that up with a groundout to short and Gordon Beckham fouled out to conclude the Classic City Canines’ turn at the plate.

Nathan Moreau began the bottom of the inaugural canto less auspiciously when he walked Cord Phelps with his first four pitches, but Toby Gerhart obligingly grounded into a double play and Jason Castro went quietly by being thrown out at first base.

Rich Poythress led off the visitors’ half of the second stanza with a double down the left field line on an 0-2 pitch, but Bryce Massanari popped up and Matt Cerione was called out on a fairly generous third strike before Joey Lewis dropped a base hit into left field to plate the first run of the game. After Lyle Allen was plunked, Miles Starr went down swinging to end the inning.

Cardinal second baseman Cord Phelps went two for five with an R.B.I. and a walk. Stanford will self-destruct in 60 seconds.

After retiring the first two batters in the bottom of the frame on a lineout and a strikeout, Moreau struck Sean Ratliff on the hand to put a baserunner aboard for Jeff Whitlow, who looked bad on a couple of strikes prior to sending a single up the middle. Zach Jones thereafter narrowly missed a three-run shot to left field before striking out to strand two teammates.

The third canto got underway with a Peisel single and, after Olson struck out, Beckham punched a base hit through the left side to move the Georgia third baseman into scoring position. A Poythress double plated Peisel and Massanari drew what did not begin as, but ultimately became, an intentional walk to load the bases for Cerione.

The Bulldog center fielder struck out, so it fell to Lewis to drive the first-pitch single to left field that brought home two more runs before Allen flied out to put a four-hit, three-run frame in the books. With the Cardinal now down 4-0, Jake Schlander drew a four-pitch walk to begin the bottom of the stanza and Phelps reached base safely on a hard-hit ball initially scored as a fielding error by Peisel but later reclassified as a hit.

Moreau then walked Gerhart on four pitches to put three men aboard with no one out for Castro, who started out 0-2 but worked the count full before striking out and bringing Brent Milleville to the plate. Dean Weaver was called in to face the right-handed hitter and the Stanford batter traded an out for a run, sending a sacrifice fly to right field to plate Schlander.

Cardinal first baseman Brent Milleville was one for four, batted in a run, and narrowly missed having his surname incorporated into the title of a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Bridget Fonda.

After Randy Molina sent a single up the middle to load the bases anew, Ratliff flied out to keep the Diamond Dogs’ advantage in runs at 4-1 and their edge in hits at 6-3. Determined not to lose the momentum, the Red and Black came back to the plate in the top of the fourth frame and got things going with a first-pitch single by Starr.

Peisel’s subsequent single put two men aboard for Olson, whose sacrifice bunt moved both baserunners into scoring position and left a base open for Beckham, who was walked intentionally. This brought Drew Storen to the mound and the Cardinal reliever surrendered the single to Poythress that brought home two runs. Although the next two at-bats featured a Massanari foulout and a Cerione strikeout, Georgia had extended its lead on a three-hit, two-run inning.

Weaver retired the first two Stanford batters in the home half of the frame on a pair of groundouts before conceding a base hit to Schlander. Phelps’s ensuing triple plated a run, as did the wild pitch Weaver thereafter threw before Gerhart’s groundout ended the inning with Georgia holding a 6-3 lead.

The Classic City Canines went back on the offensive in the top of the fifth frame. Following Lewis’s first-pitch groundout, Allen and Starr registered consecutive singles to set the table for Peisel, whose home run to right field gave Georgia a six-run edge. Olson’s double in the next at-bat went to waste when Beckham and Poythress each popped up, but the Red and Black returned to the field holding a 13-5 advantage in hits to accompany their 9-3 lead in runs.

Cardinal shortstop Jake Schlander went one for three, struck out once, walked once, and narrowly missed having his surname incorporated into the title of a book by Ann Coulter.

Stanford, however, refused to go away, as Castro led off the home half of the canto with a single to center field and Milleville followed up with a base hit of his own. After Molina lined out and Ratliff popped up, Joey August drove a first-pitch single through the right side to plate Castro. Jones then stared at a called third strike to conclude a three-hit, one-run inning.

To the sixth stanza the contest went with Austin Yount taking over the hurling duties for Stanford in the top of the frame. He extracted a pop-up from Massanari and persuaded Cerione to strike out before eliciting a full-count groundout from Lewis. The first two Cardinal batters in the home half of the frame recorded outs, but Gerhart reached on a Peisel fielding error to put one aboard for Castro, who fouled out to strand the baserunner.

Although Allen led off the top of the seventh stanza with a four-pitch base on balls, a fielder’s-choice bunt by Starr cut down the lead runner and the next two batters popped up and grounded out, respectively. Alex McRee was brought in to pitch the home half of the frame and he quickly ran into trouble when a Beckham throwing error allowed Milleville to reach base.

Following a Molina strikeout, Ratliff walked on a payoff pitch. Both baserunners advanced on a wild pitch after August popped up, but Jones popped up on a payoff pitch to strand two men in scoring position. Yount’s first pitch in the top of the eighth canto was sent down the left field line for a double by Beckham and the Stanford hurler’s second pitch also was sent down the left field line for a double by Poythress. This scored an additional run, but the next three Bulldog batters recorded outs.

Stanford left fielder Joey August had one hit, one strikeout, and one R.B.I. in four at-bats on Saturday, and he succeeded at having his surname incorporated into the title of a novel by William Faulkner.

In the home half of the canto, a two-out walk drawn by Gerhart was squandered when Castro watched a called third strike sail by, so the Red and Black returned to the plate for the top of the ninth inning. The first two Georgia batters struck out before David Stringer came on to close out the canto. After walking Peisel on four pitches, he enticed Olson to fly out and bring Joshua Fields to the mound to pitch the home half of the frame.

It is, I believe, commonly known that Fields has such perfect control as a pitcher that he toys with the opposition by giving them false hope solely for the purpose of making things interesting. Thus, he began by striking out Milleville, but then walked Molina on four pitches and surrendered a single to Ratliff to put runners at the corners. The Georgia closer then struck out August, surrendered an R.B.I. single to Colin Walsh and a three-run homer to Ben Clowe to give the Classic City Canines a mere two-run lead, and coolly coaxed Phelps to fly out on the payoff pitch that assured the Diamond Dogs of a spot in the College World Series finals.

Obviously, it was far from a perfect game. Georgia’s infielders were charged with a pair of errors and missed being accused of a third miscue by the narrowest of margins. While the game never truly appeared to be in doubt, matters were made much more harrowing than necessary when Joshua Fields surrendered four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Nevertheless, the Bulldog bullpen pitched three scoreless innings and the Red and Black offense continued to produce, generating 15 hits and ten runs on the strength of solid performances by Ryan Peisel (3 for 5, 3 R.B.I.), Gordon Beckham (2 for 4), Rich Poythress (4 for 5, 4 R.B.I.), and Joey Lewis (2 for 5, 3 R.B.I.). At the end of the day, the Diamond Dogs secured a spot in the College World Series finals and that achievement, however attained, represents a good day’s work.

Go ‘Dawgs!