Because of Friday night’s rainout, the Diamond Dogs were scheduled to play a doubleheader in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. In their opening S.E.C. outing against Alabama, the Classic City Canines were out-hit 14-9 on the way to a 9-5 setback.
In the top of the first frame, Matt Cerione registered a one-out single and, once Colby May was called out on strikes after gazing at an 0-2 pitch, Rich Poythress put the first ball thrown his way into right center field for the base hit that put runners at the corners for Bryce Massanari, who also struck out looking. With Trevor Holder on the mound, no Alabamian made it as far as first base in the bottom of the frame.
In the visitors’ half of the second stanza, Chase Davidson fouled off a pair of pitches on an 0-2 count before sending a one-out single to right field. Although Michael Demperio reached on a fielder’s choice, the Georgia right fielder made it safely to second thanks to an error by Ross Wilson. Levi Hyams’s ensuing homer to right field plated three runs. Another Wilson error allowed Cerione to reach base with two outs, but May hit into the fielder’s choice that concluded the canto.
In the bottom of the inning, Brandon May drew a one-out walk on four straight pitches and Vin DiFazio was given a free pass in the next plate appearance, but the next two Crimson Tide batters registered outs to strand a pair of baserunners. The Classic City Canines went three up and three down in the top of the third stanza and the first two ‘Bama batters in the bottom of the canto recorded outs, as well. Josh Rutledge made it as far as second on a Davidson error, appropriately enabling Wilson to bring home an unearned run with a single up the middle.
Alabama starting pitcher Austin Hyatt struck out six, walked one, and gave up a lone earned run in eight innings’ worth of work, which ain’t bad for a hotel in Texas.
Wilson stole second, enabling Kent Matthes to bring home another run with a base hit to right center field after being down 0-2 in the count. Alabama’s May carded the Crimson Tide’s third straight single to give Georgia a one-run edge (3-2) and a one-hit edge (4-3) to match the home team’s one-error disadvantage (2-1).
DiFazio evened the hitting by returning the first pitch he saw up the middle to load the bases for Clay Jones. The Red Elephants’ first baseman plated two with a base hit to left field before the next batter popped up to end a five-hit, four-run stanza for Alabama. The home team now held advantages in hits (5-4) and runs (4-3).
The Diamond Dogs thus came up to bat in the top of the fourth frame trailing by a run and made no headway in overcoming the deficit, as the side was retired in order. In the home half of the canto, Taylor Dugas sent a one-out single into center field on an 0-1 count before Rutledge grounded out to move the Alabama left fielder to second. Wilson also grounded out to prevent the Tide from extending their lead.
To the fifth inning the contest went, commencing with Johnathan Taylor muscling a base hit through the right side in the top of the canto after working the count full. Although Cerione lined into a double play, Georgia’s May drew a walk on four straight pitches before Poythress moved the Bulldog third baseman into scoring position with a single. Massanari thereafter sent a first-pitch flyout into right field.
Alabama left fielder Taylor Dugas went two for five in the first game on Saturday, which ain’t bad for an impressionist who painted dancers.
The Crimson Tide built on their lead on the first pitch of the home half of the frame when Matthes homered. Alabama’s May fouled off a pair of pitches on a 3-2 count to draw a base on balls, but the baserunner was caught stealing after DiFazio went down swinging. A subsequent walk by Jones and double by Jake Smith went for naught when Alex Kubal grounded out to end the inning.
All the Red and Black had to show for the visitors’ turn at the plate in the sixth stanza was a two-out Demperio single which was negated by a pop-up from Hyams. Justin Earls took the mound in the bottom of the canto but was pulled after surrendering a leadoff double to Dugas and extracting a first-pitch lineout from Rutledge.
On came Will Harvil, who walked Wilson, conceded a run-scoring double to Matthes, intentionally walked Alabama’s May, gave up a run-scoring sacrifice fly to DiFazio, walked Jones on four consecutive pitches, allowed a run-scoring single to Smith, and coaxed a groundout from Kubal to wrap up the three-hit, three-run frame that put the Tide ahead by an 8-3 margin.
Georgia’s May sent the first pitch thrown his way down the left field line for a double in the top of the seventh stanza, but there already were two outs away in the inning and Poythress’s first-pitch flyout kept the score unchanged. Steve Esmonde arrived on the hill in the home half of the canto and promptly obtained a pair of flyouts to center field with his first three throws to home plate.
Clearly, the problem with the first game on Saturday was what it always is in sports: too many guys named May.
Wilson turned the second pitch he saw into a single to short, but Matthes put Esmonde’s next pitch into play and was thrown out at first. The eighth frame got underway with the home team leading by four hits (12-8) and five runs (8-3). Georgia did nothing to change those numbers in the top of the stanza, in which the Red and Black notched only a groundout, a strikeout, and a flyout.
Alabama’s May led off the bottom of the inning with a first-pitch single to center field and took second on a wild pitch. The next two Crimson Tide batters recorded outs, but the Alabama designated hitter took third on a passed ball and scored on a throwing error by Massanari. Smith added insult to injury by turning a 2-0 pitch into a single, but Kubal grounded out to begin the ninth stanza.
A faint glimmer of hope appeared in the visitors’ turn at the plate when Alabama reliever Austin Evans awarded a leadoff walk to Demperio and surrendered a base on balls to Hyams in the ensuing plate appearance. Evans got the quick hook in favor of Jimmy Nelson, who allowed both baserunners to advance on a wild pitch before striking out Taylor. Cerione notched an R.B.I. on a groundout and Georgia’s May registered another on a base hit, but the Classic City Canines still needed four runs and were down to one out. Poythress recorded the latter in the next at-bat to close out the visitors’ first loss of the year.
It’s hard to be too critical of a team that opened the season by going 14-0, even if the defending S.E.C. champion Diamond Dogs suddenly found themselves standing at 0-1 in conference play. The Red and Black scored three earned runs while allowing five, but that made the contest seem closer than it actually was. Since the errors evened out at two per side, it is telling that Alabama scored in four of eight innings while Georgia relied on a Levi Hyams home run and a couple of cosmetic R.B.I. after the game was out of reach. There was no time to dwell on this one, though, because the Classic City Canines were scheduled to play two.