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After losing a one-run game on Friday and winning a one-run game on Saturday, the Diamond Dogs came into their date with the Tribe on Sunday with a chance to claim a series win over the toughest non-conference opponent they are likely to face. Despite a valiant effort, Georgia came up short, falling by a 7-5 final margin in a back-and-forth contest.
Following a scoreless first frame in which neither team carded a hit, designated hitter Chase Davidson put the Bulldogs on the board with a leadoff home run to right field to start the second stanza. Georgia added to its advantage in the third canto when pinch hitter Conor Welton drew a two-out walk, advanced to second on a base hit by second baseman Levi Hyams, and came home on an RBI single by pinch hitter Lance Martin.
The Seminoles answered in the top of the fifth inning. After breaking up starter Craig Gullickson’s no-hitter in the fourth frame, Florida State opened the ensuing canto with a base hit. Following a pair of flyouts, FSU second baseman Devon Travis brought home a run with a double. A single by third baseman Sherman Johnson pushed another across the plate to snarl the contest at two runs and four hits per side. One wild pitch and one double later, the Tribe had the lead and Gullickson’s day was done. Reliever John Herman came in from the bullpen and secured the final out to end the inning.
A leadoff single by third baseman Curt Powell in the home half of the fifth canto went to waste when the next three Diamond Dogs to enter the batter’s box carded a strikeout, a flyout, and a groundout, respectively. However, the Classic City Canines took better advantage of their opportunities in the bottom of the sixth stanza, in which Davidson dropped a one-out double into center field. Once shortstop Kyle Farmer was hit by a pitch and first baseman Jonathan Hester drew a base on balls, catcher Brandon Stephens was able to tie the game on a sacrifice fly and Powell was able to give the Athenians the lead with a single.
The seventh frame got underway with a base on balls, an error, and a passed ball to put two FSU runners in scoring position. A base hit scored one run, a groundout scored another, and a two-out wild pitch plated a third. After the next inning and a half passed largely without incident, the Tribe tacked on an insurance run on a pair of walks, a single, and a wild pitch. Bulldog closer Bryan Benzor prevented further damage by extracting a double play ball from catcher Rafael Lopez to strand two. With one out down in the bottom of the ninth stanza, singles by Powell and right fielder Peter Verdin, followed by walks issued to Welton and Hyams, forced home a run. The next two Georgia batters stared at called third strikes to give Florida State the game and the series.
Despite the loss, Georgia showed some promise, out-hitting the visiting Seminoles 9-7 and getting good days at the plate from Chase Davidson (2 for 5, 1 RBI) and Curt Powell (3 for 4, 1 RIWWB). Craig Gullickson lasted four and two-thirds innings, allowing three earned runs, and the bullpen combined to give up just two earned runs in four and one-third frames. However, the pitching staff conceded nine bases on balls while securing just five strikeouts, and the Athenians committed an error against a ranked opponent that was not charged with any miscues.
To top it all off, left fielder Zach Cone and center fielder Johnathan Taylor collided in the field in the top of the third inning, sending Taylor to St. Mary’s Hospital with a neck injury. While we await word on the outfielder’s recovery, we must acknowledge that the Red and Black played better baseball in the last two games than they have previously, but it still was not enough to secure a series victory in a three-game weekend set that was entirely winnable.