The Diamond Dogs welcomed Arkansas to Foley Field for a three-game SEC set this weekend. Against a Razorback squad ranked as high as 14th in the land, the Athenians suffered a six-run setback on Friday, claimed a shutout win on Saturday, and took the series on Sunday with a walk-off RBI plunking that would’ve made Jeff Blauser proud.
Alex Wood took the loss in Friday’s series opener, lasting into the sixth stanza and striking out four while walking two but surrendering eleven hits. Only three of the six runs to cross home plate while Wood was on the mound were earned, though, because an error by first baseman Jonathan Hester to open the third inning allowed the Hogs to score a trio of unearned runs on three hits. The bullpen surrendered additional runs in each of the final three frames.
Georgia scored its initial run on a trio of singles in the bottom of the first inning, but the Bulldogs did not add to their tally until a three-run homer by pinch hitter Colby May in the ninth canto, after Arkansas had taken a 10-1 lead.
The Red and Black got back on the winning track on Saturday, when Michael Palazzone went eight innings in a four-hit shutout before giving way to Tyler Maloof, who collected his 15th save of the season. Georgia kept Arkansas off the board entirely while notching three runs on eight hits. In the third stanza, catcher Joey Delmonico led off with a double before right fielder Peter Verdin brought him home with a base hit, then singles by Hester and center fielder Conor Welton in the fifth frame set the stage for two more scores on an RBI groundout by Verdin and a triple by second baseman Levi Hyams.
Sunday’s rubber match remained scoreless for five and a half frames before the Red and Black broke through in the bottom of the sixth stanza on a base hit by shortstop Kyle Farmer and a double by left fielder Zach Cone. The Hogs moved out in front in the ensuing inning, taking a 2-1 lead on three hits aided by an error charged to catcher Brandon Stephens.
The Diamond Dogs reclaimed the advantage in the home half of the canto, thanks to a leadoff single by Stephens and a two-out home run by Hyams. The seesaw battle continued into the eighth frame, in which Arkansas transformed a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 edge on a pair of singles, a pair of stolen bases, and a two-run double. The Razorbacks added an unearned run in the top of the ninth stanza on account of a Verdin error.
Trailing by two, the Classic City Canines came up to bat for the final time. Designated hitter Brett DeLoach led off with a double, pinch hitter Chase Davidson was hit by a pitch, Welton sacrificed both baserunners over, and Verdin tied the game with a single to center field. After Hyams was issued a free pass to first base, a strikeout left the Bulldogs down to their final chance. Farmer walked to load the bases for Cone, who was hit by a pitch to force home the winning run.
With the series victory, Georgia improved to 24-21 overall and 13-8 in conference play to preserve the Red and Black’s postseason prospects with three SEC sets to go. With wins in five of their last six contests and eleven games left, the Diamond Dogs appear to be peaking at the right time.