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Diamond Dogs Let One Get Away After Having Game Firmly in Hand at Midpoint of First Inning

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Georgia 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 8 0
Arkansas 3 0 0 2 1 2 1 1 X 10 16 0

I was feeling good when the evening began. I got home on Friday afternoon, mowed the front yard, grilled some barbecue pork chops and corn on the cob on the back porch under the watchful eye of the Uga statue, and settled in on the living room couch with my wife and kids to watch the Diamond Dogs’ televised outing against Arkansas on ESPN2. I was hopeful. I was an idiot.

Drew Smyly threw a lot of pitches in the top of the first frame, in which he conceded a pair of runs on a trio of hits. Peter Verdin sent a one-out double to left field, and, although a baserunning mistake caused the Georgia right fielder to miss the chance to take third on a Kyle Farmer flyout, a Zach Cone single scored him. After the Bulldog center fielder stole back-to-back bases, Levi Hyams dropped a base hit into right field to bring home another run. It was pretty much all downhill from there.

The Razorbacks answered in the home half of the canto. Justin Grimm conceded a leadoff single and a stolen base to Collin Kuhn, a walk to Bo Bigham, and a one-out home run to Andy Wilkins to make the score 3-2 in favor of the home team. After issuing a two-out base on balls to Monk Kreder, Grimm retired the seventh batter he faced in the inning.

The home team’s 3-2 lead in runs and the visitors’ 3-2 lead in hits remained unchanged in the top of the second stanza, in which Smyly retired the side in sequence. In the bottom of the frame, James McCann sent a one-out single to (or, evidently, off of) the pitcher, and, after Verdin made a diving catch in right field, Bigham beat out a throw from short to put a couple of men on base. Grimm secured the final out.

Verdin evened the hits at four per side by belting a one-out single to center field in the top of the third canto, but another baserunning mistake resulted in his being caught stealing before Farmer went down swinging. Kreder parked a two-out base hit in right field and advanced to second on a wild pitch in the bottom of the stanza, but Farmer chased down a pop-up to leave him stranded.

A one-out single by Hyams in the upper half of the fourth frame once more snarled the hits at five apiece, but Brett DeLoach reached on the fielder’s choice that cut down the lead runner and nearly ended in a double play. Tim Carver led off the bottom of the inning with a base hit, swiped second with one out away, and took third on a Kuhn groundout. After Bigham drew the walk that put runners at the corners, Zack Cox and Wilkins each drove in a run with a single up the middle. The Razorbacks’ turn at the plate ended with the Hogs leading 5-2.

After the Diamond Dogs went three up and three down in the visitors’ half of the fifth canto, Travis Sample smacked a one-out triple to center field in the bottom of the inning. Grimm walked Carver on four straight pitches, and the Arkansas shortstop stole second. A pop-up provided encouragement for the Red and Black, yet a wild pitch plated Sample before Kuhn flied out to keep the lead at 6-2.

The snake-bit nature of the Georgia baseball team was made plainly apparent in the top of the sixth stanza, when a Verdin pop foul was turned into an out by Wilkins on a sliding play and a Farmer single was negated by a double play on which the Bulldog shortstop looked bad while being tagged out at second base. The Classic City Canines managed to make it back to the dugout without being struck by lightning or having their path crossed by a black cat bearing lyme disease and swine flu.

The contest continued to unravel for the Red and Black in the bottom of the frame, which began with a base hit by Bigham and an RBI double by Cox. A Wilkins pop-up was followed by the Hogs’ fourth stolen base of the game, and Brett Eibner brought the Arkansas third baseman home from his accustomed spot on the diamond with the single that drove Grimm from the game. Steve Esmonde secured the final two outs of the canto.

The seventh inning got underway with the home team holding a 12-6 edge in hits, and that ratio was unaffected at the end of the Diamond Dogs’ turn at the plate, in which the Athenians went three up and three down. Consecutive singles to start the home half of the frame enabled Carver to score from third on a double-play ball.

Smyly plunked back-to-back batters with one out away in the top of the eighth stanza before Verdin sent a double-play ball back to the mound. Wilkins’s one-out solo home run in the home half of the inning gave the Hogs their tenth run and their fifteenth hit, after which the Classic City Canines carded a couple of meaningless singles in the top of the ninth stanza before hitting into a game-ending double play.

I mean, dang. Drew Smyly improved to 5-0 with a complete game in which he struck out seven, walked none, scattered eight hits, and held the Diamond Dogs scoreless for the last eight innings. Arkansas plated runs in each of the final five frames with solid situational hitting, going four for eight to lead off innings, five for thirteen with two outs away, and seven for 22 with men on base.

The curse of playing errorless baseball (0-9) came back to bite the Diamond Dogs, as did the curse of playing at night (1-12), the curse of playing on the road (3-11), the curse of facing a left-handed starting pitcher (1-11), the curse of trailing after four frames (1-15), the curse of trailing after five frames (0-16), the curse of trailing after six frames (0-19), the curse of trailing after seven frames (0-18), and the curse of trailing after eight frames (0-21). When you’re awful at everything in all circumstances, there is no such thing as a good sign. It’s all bad.

There is nothing to be gained by continuing to allow this sorry season to unfold. 2010 represented a lost spring while it was still winter; by subjecting themselves to additional demoralizing beatdowns, the Diamond Dogs will accomplish nothing more than doing further damage to the already fragile psyche of a young team. I’ll be here until the bitter end, but the only thing the Red and Black are doing now is increasing the likelihood that a tailspin which began midway through 2009 will continue into 2011.

All hope is false hope. If I ever again write anything upbeat and encouraging about Georgia athletics with anything less than absolutely ironclad evidence, feel free to drive to my house and slap me.

Go ‘Dawgs!