On Tuesday evening, the Diamond Dogs traveled to the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology, that bastion of spelling and capitalization skills and classy expressions of support for their team rather than of constant contempt for the opposition, for the first of three scheduled series meetings with the Yellow Jackets. As expected, the third-ranked Golden Tornado prevailed at the Flats, earning the victory by a 6-5 margin in a hard-fought contest.
The visitors appeared doomed from the start. The Red and Black sent three batters to the plate in the top of the first inning, and all three of them struck out swinging. The home team fared rather better in the bottom of the canto, as the first three Georgia Tech batters produced a one-run shot to right field, a walk, and a two-run shot to right field, respectively.
The visitors’ half of the second stanza showed some promise, as Robert Shipman led off with a single and Christian Glisson followed with a walk, but a strikeout, a flyout, and a groundout stranded them both. A Jay Dantzler home run in the lower half of the frame gave the Ramblin’ Wreck a 4-0 lead. Neither squad scored in the third inning.
After a three-up-and-three-down turn at the plate in the top of the fourth stanza, Steve Esmonde took over for Blake Dieterich, who struck out four, walked two, and gave up five hits and four earned runs in three cantos’ worth of work in his first start as a freshman. The new Georgia hurler extracted flyouts from three of the four batters he faced and Yellow Jacket starter Mark Pope kept the one-hitter going and preserved his 0.00 ERA by retiring the side in sequence in the top of the fifth frame.
After Justin Earls returned the favor by setting down all three batters he faced in the home half of the inning, Levi Hyams led off the visitors’ half of the sixth stanza with a base hit and Zach Cone brought him home with a triple. One out later, a Peter Verdin single plated the Georgia center fielder, so, by the time the canto concluded with runners stranded at the corners, the hits were tied at five per side and the Engineers’ lead had been halved.
No Georgia Tech batter made it as far as first base in the bottom of the frame, but Zach Taylor, Todd Hankins, and Hyams reached by being hit by a pitch, dropping a single into center field, and hitting into the fielder’s choice that cut down the lead runner at third, respectively, at the outset of the seventh stanza. A Cone triple to center field plated two to tie the game and force Pope from the mound, then Verdin drove a two-out double to left field to give the Classic City Canines an 8-5 edge in hits and a 5-4 lead in runs.
Jeff Rowland and Jacob Esch carded consecutive one-out singles in the bottom of the inning before Cooper Moseley came on with two outs away and surrendered the Cole Leonida single that evened the hits at eight and the runs at five. Matt Skole flied out to strand two and keep the contest knotted. The top of the eighth canto featured drama (in the form of a leadoff walk, an unsuccessful steal attempt, a single, and a wild pitch) but not scoring.
The hurling responsibilities devolved upon Alex McRee in the home half of the stanza and the latest Georgia pitcher proceeded to plunk the leadoff hitter and issue bases on balls to the next two batters to load the bases with no outs. Back-to-back strikeouts made it appear as though McRee might make it out of the jam, but he walked Esch to force home the go-ahead run before persuading Tony Plagman to stare at a called third strike. The damage was done and the Diamond Dogs went quietly in the top of the ninth inning.
Last year’s initial meeting between Georgia and Georgia Tech on the diamond lacked any redeeming value whatsoever; the same cannot be said for this contest. A young and injury-riddled Bulldog club with a .500 record went on the road to face a top ten team and battled a clearly superior squad to a virtual standstill. While the Yellow Jackets held the all-important 6-5 advantage in runs, the Red and Black out-hit their hosts 9-8 and neither combatant was charged with an error.
David Perno reshuffled his lineup for the midweek contest, moving Zach Cone into the leadoff spot, with Johnathan Taylor following him and Robert Shipman batting cleanup. The altered batting order failed to produce a run for the first five frames and Mark Pope struck out nine Bulldog batters during his time on the hill, but Cone (2 for 5, 3 RBI) and Peter Verdin (2 for 5, 2 RBI) ultimately responded reasonably well to their new placements. The bullpen allowed just two earned runs in five innings.
While a loss is a loss and losses are unacceptable, I was given a heck of a lot more hope by this one-run loss than I was by the last one. I extend my congratulations to the Yellow Jackets on their victory. Of course, I know it’s no big deal to them, since Georgia doesn’t define Georgia Tech in any way . . . nope, not a one, not a single solitary one, not at all!