Sunday’s rubber match in Nashville was, in many respects, a gut-wrenching replay of Saturday’s soul-crushing setback. The Diamond Dogs held a narrow lead late in a low-scoring contest, only to see a collapse at the close of the contest cost them the victory, and the series, as the Red and Black fell, 5-3, in an outing in which Georgia had more hits (10-8) and Vanderbilt committed more errors (2-1).
The first three innings, while not entirely bereft of excitement, were without scoring, so the initial deadlock was not broken until shortstop Kyle Farmer led off the top of the fourth frame with a first-pitch home run. Vanderbilt answered in the bottom of the canto, generating a run on three singles to tie the game.
Georgia wasted a chance to take the lead in the fifth inning, when the Red and Black had baserunners at first and second with only one out yet registered two outs without advancing a man as far as third, but the Athenians went out in front in the seventh stanza. Center fielder Conor Welton drew a leadoff walk on four straight pitches, swiped second, took third on a Commodore throwing error, and scored an unearned run on a first-pitch Farmer groundout.
The Bulldogs failed to capitalize on another opportunity in the visitors’ half of the eighth frame. Georgia had runners at the corners with one out, but catcher Brandon Stephens grounded into a double play to begin a disastrous half-inning for the Classic City Canines. Reliever Bryan Benzor took over on the mound, gave up a leadoff single, and retired the next two Vandy batters. Then the meltdown commenced.
A single on a payoff pitch tied the game. Wild pitches advanced the baserunner to third. The next Commodore drew a base on balls on a 3-2 count. A triple scored two runs. Another wild pitch plated one more. Ross Ripple came in from the bullpen and halted the bloodletting, but not before the Music City Mariners had taken a 5-2 lead.
The Diamond Dogs would not go down without a fight, though. Welton got the ninth inning underway with a base hit down the left field line. Second baseman Levi Hyams followed that up with a walk, but, after third baseman Curt Powell grounded into the double play that moved the Georgia center fielder over to third, Farmer dropped the single into right center field that scored Welton. Left fielder Hunter Cole drew the walk that brought the would-be go-ahead run to the plate, but designated hitter Brett DeLoach grounded out to drop the Red and Black to 3-3 in SEC play.
Starter Pete Nagel and the Bulldogs’ first two relievers, Chase Hawkins and Luke Crumley, collectively conceded four hits, one walk, and one run in seven innings on the mound. Benzor’s turn on the hill was dismal, but it should not be overlooked that the Georgia lineup once again generated a box score that looked like binary code, made up exclusively of ones and zeros.
The Bulldogs notched ten hits, drew five walks, and benefited from a pair of Vanderbilt errors, yet the visitors left eleven men on base and scored only three runs. Apart from Farmer’s three-for-five, three-RBI afternoon, Georgia sent a dozen men to the plate, not one of whom drove in a run, and only one of whom scored. Georgia’s leadoff hitter (Nelson Ward), cleanup hitter (Cole), and designated hitter (DeLoach) went a cumulative three for 13 with one walk and two strikeouts.