Fresh from a midweek embarrassment, the Diamond Dogs welcomed Louisiana State to Foley Field on Friday night for the first outing of a three-game SEC set. The Classic City Canines came into the contest sporting a 9-12 ledger, but their wins included victories over No. 24 UCLA, No. 21 Baylor, No. 7 Florida State, and No. 4 South Carolina. Unfortunately, they had no such luck against No. 11 LSU, ultimately falling 7-3 in a contest that was close through five innings.
With the Bulldogs’ aid, the Bayou Bengals wasted no time getting on the board. In the top of the first frame, leadoff batter JaCoby Jones took first base on an error by shortstop Kyle Farmer, took second on a passed ball, was sacrificed over to third, and came home on a sacrifice fly. After the Athenians went three up and three down in the bottom of the canto, LSU added to its advantage in the visitors’ half of the second stanza when right fielder Mason Katz sent a solo home run to right field. The Red and Black retort in the home half of the inning took the form of a leadoff double by center fielder Zach Cone and a pair of baserunner-advancing outs to halve the deficit.
Two and a half scoreless stanzas ensued before right fielder Kevin Ruiz led off the bottom of the fifth frame with a double. First baseman Jonathan Hester sacrificed him over to third, then catcher Brandon Stephens sent the game-tying fly ball to right field. By the time third baseman Curt Powell grounded out, the contest was snarled in runs (2-2) and in hits (3-3).
It did not stay that way for long. In the top of the sixth inning, a two-out single by third baseman Tyler Hanover was followed by a two-run shot by center fielder Mikie Mahtook to put the Tigers up by two in runs (4-2) and in hits (5-3). The next nine outs passed largely without incident before the Bayou Bengals went back to work in the top of the eighth frame. Jones led off with a double and was sacrificed over to third before being thrown out on a very questionable call at home plate, but back-to-back singles, coupled with an error by starting pitcher Alex Wood, brought home a trio of runs.
That marked the end of the line for Wood, who lasted seven and two-thirds innings, struck out four while walking one, and generally pitched better than his final stat line (8 hits, 7 runs, 4 earned runs) suggested. Georgia got out of the canto and cut into the lead with a pair of singles and a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the bottom of the frame, but it was too little, too late. Reliever Earl Daniels coaxed three straight outs from the Tigers, forcing the visitors to strand two baserunners in the top of the ninth inning, and the Bulldogs squandered a leadoff single by Cone---the only Red and Black batter to collect multiple hits on Friday---by conceding a flyout, a lineout, and a strikeout in the next three plate appearances.
For the third straight game, the Diamond Dogs have hung tough with a strong opponent for a short while. On Sunday, Georgia trailed South Carolina 4-3 after five innings before being outscored 4-0 the rest of the way. On Tuesday, Georgia led Georgia Tech 2-1 after four frames before being outscored 14-4 the rest of the way. On Friday, Georgia was tied with LSU 2-2 after five stanzas before being outscored 5-1 the rest of the way.
The Classic City Canines aren’t just losing, they’re failing to compete with the top teams on their schedule. Even the best teams in college baseball lose their share along the way, but good teams don’t let games get away from them the way the Diamond Dogs have done in their last three outings. A second straight embarrassing season appears to be unspooling before us, and, if this decline is not arrested forthwith, we soon will be compiling one of these lists about David Perno.