Same stuff, different day. The Diamond Dogs’ agonizing downward spiral came to an ignominious end on Saturday, when South Carolina completed its sweep of Georgia to drop the Red and Black from the onetime No. 1 team in the nation to a .500 club in S.E.C. play.
The Classic City Canines had an early opportunity to get on the board through no doing of their own. Johnathan Taylor was hit by a pitch to start the top of the first canto and, when Matt Cerione reached on a fielder’s choice, a Scott Wingo error put two men aboard with no outs. However, Rich Poythress grounded into the double play that advanced the Georgia left fielder to third, after which Joey Lewis flied out to strand Taylor 90 feet from home plate.
The Gamecocks, on the other hand, used a one-out DeAngelo Mack single, a baserunner-advancing groundout by Jackie Bradley, Jr., and a run-scoring Nick Ebert single in the home half of the frame to give the Palmetto State Poultry an early 1-0 advantage. A two-out Colby May single and a Levi Hyams walk in the visitors’ half of the second stanza went to waste when David Thoms grounded out to leave a runner in scoring position for the second straight inning.
After the Gamecocks went three up and three down in the bottom of the frame, Taylor led off the top of the third canto with a base hit, only to have it erased by a double-play ball off the bat of Cerione. Poythress’s ensuing walk likewise was nullified when the Bulldog first baseman was caught stealing.
On the plus side, my wife and I went to see "Star Trek" while this game was being played, so at least I didn’t have to suffer through the final phase of the depressing denouement of this sagging season while it was happening.
Wingo began the home half of the inning with a double and Whit Merrifield got aboard on account of a May error. Mack grounded into the double play that moved the South Carolina second baseman to third and Bradley grounded out to strand him there. A leadoff single by Lewis in the upper half of the fourth frame was followed by three consecutive outs.
Continuing the trend of leadoff hitters reaching base, Ebert kicked off the home half of the stanza with a home run. Justin Earls took the mound later in the frame with a two outs away and a man aboard. After the runner swiped second and Bobby Haney drew a walk, the Georgia reliever extracted a groundout from Wingo. The Red and Black were retired in sequence in the visitors’ half of the fifth inning.
Consecutive one-out walks issued by Earls in the bottom of the canto brought Jeff Walters in from the bullpen and he obtained the remaining outs without allowing additional runs. A two-out single by Bryce Massanari was all the Diamond Dogs had to show for the top of the sixth stanza and the Gamecocks went in order in the lower half of the frame.
By being plunked with one out away in the upper half of the seventh inning, May became the only Classic City Canine not to notch an out in the stanza, while a single and a stolen base by Merrifield were all Michael Palazzone surrendered in the bottom of the frame.
On the other hand, while I, as a lifelong Trekkie, loved every individual aspect of "Star Trek," the whole seemed, in the end, to be somewhat less than the sum of its parts, not unlike the 2008 Georgia football team and the 2009 Georgia baseball team.
Georgia’s turn at the plate in the eighth inning marked the visitors’ only offensive outburst, such as it was. Taylor led off with a walk and stole second. Cerione moved him over to third and Poythress brought him home with back-to-back groundouts before Massanari popped up to leave South Carolina holding a 2-1 lead.
The Gamecocks’ slight advantage did not stay small for long. In the bottom of the frame, Dean Weaver walked Ebert, struck out Kyle Enders, gave up a double to Andrew Crisp, got Adam Matthews to ground out, conceded a two-R.B.I. double to Haney, surrendered a two-run shot to Wingo, and struck out Merrifield. Lyle Allen’s leadoff double in the top of the ninth canto was followed by a Robbie O’Bryan flyout, a May strikeout, and a Hyams flyout to drop the Diamond Dogs to 15-15 in league play.
Friday night’s outing wasn’t as close as the score indicated, but Saturday afternoon’s contest was narrower than the score might suggest. The Classic City Canines were out-hit only by an 8-5 margin and each squad committed one error. Both teams stranded seven baserunners and each side struck out six times.
Still, close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and casting the female lead in "Fatal Attraction," so it matters little that Justin Grimm got off to a good start and the bullpen gave up only one hit and no runs, earned or otherwise, prior to the point at which Dean Weaver took the hill. A loss is a loss, and we in Bulldog Nation have learned to become accustomed to quite a lot of them in odd-numbered years. I expect that, between Hoover and the regional site to which the Diamond Dogs are assigned, there are four more of them to which to look forward without even a single victory embedded among them.