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N.C. State 10, Georgia 6

After winning the opening outing of the Athens Super Regional, the Diamond Dogs came into Saturday’s showdown with N.C. State hoping to punch their ticket to Omaha. Instead, the Red and Black came away from Foley Field in disappointment after dropping a 10-6 decision to the Wolfpack.

The Classic City Canines got the game underway with a bang, as Ryan Peisel led off the top of the first frame with a home run to right center field to give Georgia an early 1-0 advantage. After Matt Olson grounded out, Gordon Beckham was plunked on the hand and took first base. He did not remain there for long, however, as Rich Poythress grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Nathan Moreau took the mound in the bottom of the canto and began by striking out Dallas Poulk. Ryan Pond walked on a payoff pitch and, after Matt Payne popped up, the Wolfpack first baseman took second base on a wild pitch. A two-out single by Marcus Jones tied the game before Jeremy Synan grounded out to end the Pack’s turn at the plate.

The Diamond Dogs had only a one-out single by Matt Cerione to show for the top of the second stanza. Russell Wilson led off the bottom of the frame with a base hit, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tommy Foschi, and moved over to third on a Chris Schaeffer flyout, but he was stranded 90 feet from home plate when Drew Martin flied out to left field.

Yo yo yo yo yo yo, yo yo, Chris Schaeffer!

With two outs away in the top of the third canto, Peisel returned the first pitch thrown his way up the middle for a single, but Olson grounded out in the next at-bat. The bottom of the inning began well enough, with a Poulk flyout, but Pond drew a walk and advanced to second on a Payne single.

After Jones struck out swinging, the Wolfpack once again came alive with two outs, as consecutive base hits by Synan and Wilson plated a pair of runs and drove Moreau from the game. Stephen Dodson came on in his stead and, after surrendering a run-scoring single to Foschi, the starter-turned-reliever got Schaeffer to ground out to end a four-hit, three-run inning.

Beckham was plunked once again at the outset of the fourth frame and Poythress moved him over to second with a base hit. The Georgia shortstop was put out at third when Bryce Massanari reached on a fielder’s choice but the Bulldog first baseman made it to third when Cerione hit into a fielder’s choice, as well. Joey Lewis’s ensuing single scored a run before Lyle Allen flied out to left field.

Martin led off the bottom of the canto with a bunt single, but he was caught in a rundown and the next two Wolfpack batters registered outs. A fielding error in the top of the fifth inning permitted David Thoms to reach first, but Peisel grounded into the double play that cleared the basepaths.

Much like James Spurlock from the comedy writing staff of "TGS with Tracy Jordan," Ryan Peisel’s fifth-inning ground ball was a toofer.

Nevertheless, Olson subsequently walked on a payoff pitch and a first-pitch double by Beckham brought him home to cut N.C. State’s lead to a lone run. Poythress grounded out to bring the Pack back to the plate, but Jones’s one-out walk in the bottom of the canto went for naught when, after taking second on a Synan groundout, the Wolfpack center fielder was caught stealing and tagged out at third.

The top of the sixth stanza started with a first-pitch flyout by Massanari. At that point, after surrendering six hits and three earned runs in a little over five frames, Jake Buchanan was yanked in favor of Alex Sogard, who plunked Cerione, coaxed a flyout from Lewis, and walked Allen on four straight pitches before getting Adam Fuller to ground out to end the inning.

N.C. State went three up and three down in the bottom of the canto. Peisel led off the top of the seventh frame with the single that evened the hits at seven per side. After Olson and Beckham registered consecutive flyouts, the Bulldog third baseman took second on a wild pitch and stole third. Poythress went down swinging on a 3-2 pitch to strand the tying run 90 feet from home plate.

The pitching duties devolved upon Dean Weaver as the bottom of the inning got underway and the Georgia reliever began his time on the mound by walking Martin and surrendering a double down the left field line to Poulk. A sacrifice fly by Pond plated an insurance run, after which Weaver walked Payne on a payoff pitch to mark the end of his abbreviated stay on the mound.

Dean Weaver lasted one-third of an inning, faced five batters, tallied no strikeouts, gave up three walks, and surrendered four earned runs. Georgia might have done just as well with Carrie Weaver pitching.

Steve Esmonde came on, completed the act of walking Jones to load the bases, and walked Synan all on his own to force home another run. The Diamond Dogs narrowly missed turning two when Wilson hit into a fielder’s choice, but the N.C. State designated hitter legged it out to plate Payne. Foschi’s ensuing double down the left field line brought Jones home, as well, after which Schaeffer, mercifully, grounded out to put a two-hit, four-run frame in the books.

A one-out Cerione single in the top of the eighth frame went to waste when Lewis grounded into a double play and, when Justin Grimm took over on the hill in the bottom of the canto, the latest Red and Black hurler walked Martin and surrendered successive singles to Poulk and Pond, the latter of which scored a run. After Payne grounded into the double play that plated yet another run, Jones singled to center field on a payoff pitch. After Synan became the latest N.C. State player to draw a walk, Pat Ferguson watched a called third strike sail by to wrap up a three-hit, two-run canto.

Trailing by seven runs, the Diamond Dogs did not give up, as Allen came to the plate in the top of the ninth inning and led off with a base hit. After a Miles Starr groundout moved him over to second base, the Georgia left fielder took third on a wild pitch and scored on a Peisel groundout.

Olson returned the first pitch he saw up the middle for a base hit and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Beckham and Poythress then drew back-to-back walks to load the bases and drive Sogard from the mound. Eryk McConnell came on and surrendered the single to Massanari that plated a pair of runs before striking out Cerione to end the game.

Saturday stunk. I received my edition of Phil Steele’s 2008 College Football Preview in the mail today and Saturday still stunk.

Today’s game was the polar opposite of Friday’s. The Georgia starting pitcher walked two, gave up five hits, allowed four earned runs, and failed to make it out of the third frame. The Diamond Dogs were forced to use five different pitchers, including regular weekend starters Nathan Moreau and Stephen Dodson.

Despite playing errorless baseball, the Red and Black could not overcome the nine walks issued by Bulldog hurlers. Despite collecting eleven hits (as compared to the Pack’s twelve), the Classic City Canines could not overcome N.C. State’s stellar defensive play, as Georgia left nine men on base in the final seven innings while grounding into three double plays.

As the ESPN commentators never tired of noting, the Wolfpack’s hitting was superb with runners in scoring position, even (perhaps especially) when two outs already were away in the inning. While Ryan Peisel broke out of his slump (3 for 5, 2 R.B.I., 1 stolen base, 1 home run), the Georgia leadoff man was the only Diamond Dog to have multiple R.B.I. and multiple hits. In the opposing dugout, N.C. State had four hitters (Tommy Foschi, Ryan Pond, Jeremy Synan, and Russell Wilson) who batted in more than one run.

The Pack held the Red and Black to just two runs between the second at-bat of the first inning and the second at-bat of the ninth inning, while N.C. State scored ten runs in the interim. The A.C.C. pitching staff outdueled the S.E.C. pitching staff on Saturday, setting up a decisive showdown for Sunday afternoon, when the Classic City Canines will have one last chance at making the College World Series.

Go ‘Dawgs!