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Diamond Dogs Fall in Ninth-Inning Disaster in Nashville

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Georgia Bulldogs 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 4 17 1
Vanderbilt Commodores 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 3 5 9 0

In another rain-delayed game in Nashville, the Diamond Dogs out-hit their hosts, 17-9, but conceded three unearned runs in the ninth inning, resulting in a second straight one-run decision as Georgia fell to Vanderbilt, 5-4, in the second game of the SEC baseball series. Though defensive miscues and bullpen breakdowns in the final frame doomed the visitors, the outing remained up for grabs late only because the Athenians stranded baserunners in every inning, for a whopping 14 in all.

The early lead belonged to the Classic City Canines, who went up, 1-0, in the top of the second stanza. Third baseman Curt Powell led off with a single and stole second base, setting the stage for right fielder Peter Verdin to bring him home with a two-out base hit. However, the Bulldogs failed to capitalize on another leadoff single by Powell to start the fourth frame. A one-out double off the bat of catcher Brandon Stephens sent the Georgia third baseman to his accustomed position, but consecutive first-pitch flyouts stranded him there.

This left the door open for the ‘Dores to snarl the score in the home half of the canto on a one-out double and an RBI single. The sixth stanza saw both contestants squander opportunities, as Powell struck out with two out and two on, while starter Michael Palazzone fanned back-to-back batters with one out and a runner on third. The inning represented the fourth of five frames in which the Athenians stranded a pair of baserunners.

With one out away and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh stanza, center fielder Conor Welton smacked a single up the middle to score two. Vanderbilt answered in the eighth frame after Palazzone plunked a batter, who took third on a hit and run before coming home on a sacrifice fly off of reliever Earl Daniels. First baseman Colby May added an insurance run with a solo shot in the top of the ninth canto, leaving closer Blake Dieterich in the position of needing to secure three outs before conceding three runs.

Dieterich, who previously had owned a 3-0 record and four saves this season, had control issues, walking four of the nine batters he faced. Two of those walks, compounded by a Powell error, allowed the Commodores to load the bases with one out against them. After a sacrifice fly cut the lead to one, Dieterich conceded bases on balls to the next two Vanderbilt batters, forcing home the tying run. Redshirt freshman Jay Swinford was sent to the hill with three aboard and two outs away to force extra innings, but, instead, he surrendered the walk-off single that plated the winning run.

The Bulldogs’ fifth through ninth hitters together went twelve for 25 and batted in four runs, while the Red and Black’s leadoff hitter (Levi Hyams), designated hitter (Nelson Ward), and cleanup hitter (Hunter Cole) combined to go three for 14 with no RBI and six strikeouts. Palazzone pitched well enough to win, striking out seven in as many stanzas while allowing only six hits, two walks, and two earned runs, but the Georgia batters collectively went three for 16 with runners in scoring position, keeping the contest close enough for the game’s only error to prove fatal to the Diamond Dogs’ cause and setting up a rubber match for Sunday.

The Classic City Canines, who improved to 5-2 in shutouts with Friday’s win, fell to 5-2 in one-run games with Saturday’s loss. Today’s outing marked the tenth of the season in which Georgia hit at least one home run, but the first such game to end in a Bulldog loss.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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