The second-ranked Diamond Dogs entered Wednesday evening’s outing against visiting Wofford sporting an 8-0 ledger and knowing that the school record for consecutive victories to open a campaign was nine in a row. That mark was established in 1911, at a time when one Robert Ligon McWhorter was setting new standards for excellence in Athens on the diamond and on the gridiron, but Georgia matched it with a 13-6 victory over the Terriers.
The game began with Jason Leaver on the mound for the Red and Black in the top of the first inning. Although the Georgia hurler conceded a leadoff single to Alex Lee and Michael Gilmartin later reached base on a fielding error, the other three Terriers tallied a flyout, a strikeout, and a pop-up to conclude the canto.
Peter Verdin drew a walk to open the home half of the frame and Matt Cerione sent him to third with a base hit up the middle. A wild pitch allowed both baserunners to advance, plating a run for the Diamond Dogs, and back-to-back bases on balls were issued to Colby May and Rich Poythress. Although Chase Davidson popped up, a Joey Lewis single pushed two more runs across before Michael Demperio hit into a double play.
Wofford went three up and three down in the top of the second stanza and David Thoms’s leadoff single in the home half of the inning was squandered when the next three Georgia batters all registered outs to move him over to third but not as far as home. Consecutive two-out singles by Josh McKinney and Gilmartin in the visitors’ half of the third canto likewise went to waste when Mac Doyle flied out to center field.
Afterwards, Doyle returned to the dugout and began asking his teammates whether they picked their feet in Poughkeepsie.
The bottom of the stanza began with a bang as May singled and Poythress homered to bring home another pair of runs. Davidson’s subsequent single nearly produced another score, as Lewis’s groundout and an ensuing error enabled the Georgia designated hitter to reach third, but Thoms grounded into the double play that left him there. No Terrier reached base in the top of the fourth frame.
Zach Cone began the bottom of the inning with a home run, and, two outs later, May put one out to left field, as well. By the time Poythress grounded out, the Red and Black had built up a 7-0 advantage. Will Harvil was sent to the hill in the top of the fifth stanza with the mission of protecting that lead and he extracted outs from the first two batters he faced before walking Lee and allowing a base hit up the middle to McKinney. Gilmartin struck out to silence the threat.
Davidson opened the home half of the frame with a single and a stolen base, which together enabled Lewis to bring him home with a base hit up the middle. While the Diamond Dogs loaded the bases when Levi Hyams reached on a fielder’s choice, Miles Starr walked, and Adam Fuller was hit by a pitch, a Cone strikeout and a Lyle Allen pop-up prevented the home team from building on its 8-0 lead.
The Terriers finally began to fight back in the top of the sixth stanza. Jake Williams dropped a one-out single into left field and Kyle Behrendt moved him over to second on a groundout. After Mike McDonnell walked, Neil Robinette sent a double into right field to bring home two runs and a Konstantine Diamaduros single plated another before Lee grounded out to wrap up a three-hit, three-run inning.
Although Robinette finished with a pair of R.B.I., his evening ended in disappointment when Executive Assistant District Attorney Ben Stone informed him that he would be benched for the weekend series and replaced in the lineup by Claire Kincaid.
Wofford then proceeded to give the momentum right back, and then some. In the home half of the canto, inning-opening walks were issued to May, Poythress, and Bryce Massanari before a wild pitch scored the Georgia third baseman. After Lewis popped up, a throwing error allowed Hyams to reach first and two more runs to cross home plate. A Starr single through the right side added an unearned run. The Bulldog shortstop was moved over to third on a Johnathan Taylor groundout and a Fuller single, but Allen popped up to put a two-hit, four-run frame in the books.
The hurling duties devolved upon Cecil Tanner in the top of the seventh canto and the Georgia reliever struck out McKinney before walking Gilmartin and surrendering a double to Doyle. A Williams groundout brought home a run before Behrendt stared at a called third strike to keep the score 12-4.
Unwilling to allow the Terriers to claw any closer, the Diamond Dogs responded in the home half of the stanza. May drew a leadoff walk, and, after Robbie O’Bryan struck out looking, Massanari sent a double into center field to bring the Georgia third baseman the rest of the way home. The next two Red and Black batters registered outs, but the home team had extended its lead to 13-4.
To the eighth inning the contest went, where Justin Earls took over for Tanner and McDonnell led off the top of the frame by parking a double in center field. Diamaduros and Lee followed up Robinette’s strikeout with consecutive singles to load the bases for McKinney, who reached on a throwing error as McDonnell scored. A Gilmartin single plated another run before the next two Terriers went down swinging.
This is probably as good a time as any to remind you that a terrier is basically just a poodle with low self-esteem.
Georgia came back up to bat in the bottom of the inning holding onto a 13-6 edge. A two-out double by Fuller followed by a walk drawn by Allen failed to add another run when May grounded out, so Dean Weaver came on to close it out in the top of the ninth canto. The stanza opened with back-to-back base hits by Behrendt and David Roney, but the next two batters struck out before Lee flied out to end the contest.
Although the hits were even at 14 apiece and each side committed a pair of errors, Georgia built up an eight-run lead early and let the visiting squad creep only marginally closer in the late innings, in which Wofford only outscored the Red and Black 6-5. Solid nights at the plate by Colby May (2 for 3, 3 walks, 1 R.B.I.), Chase Davidson (2 for 3), and Joey Lewis (2 for 5, 3 R.B.I.) complimented a quality start from Jason Leaver, who went four innings, struck out six, gave up three hits, and neither walked an opposing batter nor surrendered a run.
In the recent past, midweek games against inferior competition have given the Diamond Dogs an infuriating degree of trouble. This has not been the case this year, as the Classic City Canines have dispatched without undue fanfare the clubs they are supposed to beat handily. With series upcoming against Quinnipiac and LeMoyne---with respect to whom my wife asked, "When are we playing Yoknapatawpha?"---the Red and Black are not apt to be seriously tested until paying a visit to Tuscaloosa on March 13.
Given the caliber of the competition Georgia has faced, I don’t know that a No. 2 national ranking is warranted quite yet, but, when you can basically play the entire roster yet still score in six of eight innings, you’re doing something right. The Diamond Dogs appear to be hitting on all cylinders right now, which is an encouraging sign for the short term and, given how many young players the Classic City Canines are fielding this year, for quite a while to come.