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Diamond Dogs Take Opener From Alabama, Despite Living Dangerously

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Georgia Bulldogs 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 8 14 1
Alabama Crimson Tide 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 4 10 1

The critically important final weekend of SEC play in baseball got underway on Thursday, as usual, and the Diamond Dogs arrived in Tuscaloosa, if not exactly on a roll, then at least without having lost on Tuesday, which is more than a lot of conference clubs can claim. Georgia secured the victory, carding an 8-4 win that was harder than it had to be.

Despite a one-out double by shortstop Kyle Farmer and an ensuing walk by right fielder Hunter Cole in the top of the opening inning, the first frame was scoreless, so it was not until the visitors’ half of the second stanza that either team made it onto the board. Four consecutive one-out singles by designated hitter Jared Walsh, first baseman Colby May, left fielder Conor Welton, and third baseman Curt Powell pushed one run across and left the bases loaded for Farmer, who drove in three with a triple. Cole’s subsequent sacrifice fly made it 5-0.

With two outs away in the bottom of the canto, the Tide used a base hit and a follow-up triple to notch one run, but Alex Wood extracted a groundout from the next ‘Bama batter to keep the lead at four. Georgia stranded two in the third frame after Walsh was plunked with two outs away, May moved him over to second with a single, and Welton flied out to end the inning. A similar situation was seen in the fourth stanza when Farmer reached on an error, catcher Brett DeLoach sent a two-out double down the left field line, and second baseman Levi Hyams grounded out to leave two teammates in scoring position.

Alabama, in turn, wasted a scoring opportunity in the home half of the canto, putting two on with one out before hitting into a double play. Following a largely uneventful fifth frame, the Crimson Tide led off the bottom of the sixth stanza with a base hit. A throwing error by Wood allowed the next batter to reach, but the pitcher atoned for his mistake by picking off the runner at second and striking out the next two hometown hitters.

DeLoach led off the top of the seventh inning with a walk and moved into scoring position on a balk, but his fellow Bulldogs were unable to advance him any farther than third. After a pair of two-out singles went for naught in the upper half of the eighth frame, Blake Dieterich took over on the hill for the bottom of the stanza. The Red and Black reliever surrendered a leadoff single, and the Alabamian advanced from station to station on a groundout, a passed ball, and a sacrifice fly to plate an unearned run.

In the top of the ninth canto, Hyams belted a one-out double down the left field line, then center fielder Peter Verdin drew a base on balls to set the stage for Walsh to drive a run-scoring single through the right side. May singled up the middle to bring Verdin home before a pitching change, a double-steal, and a wild pitch plated pinch runner Nelson Ward.

Bryan Benzor was called upon to pitch the bottom of the inning, and he proceeded to give up a leadoff single, throw the wild pitch that allowed the baserunner to advance, give up the one-out double that scored one run, concede the base hit that put runners at the corners, and issue the walk that loaded the bases. The next Alabama batter reached on the fielder’s choice that plated another run but cut down the man bound for third, at which point David Perno called upon Pete Nagel to take the mound and secure the final out. This he did by coaxing a groundout from the first hitter he faced.

In theory, I should be quite pleased with a four-run SEC road victory in which the starter (Wood) delivered seven innings of a six-hit, eight-strikeout, no-walk, one-run pitching performance and the first two hitters in the lineup (Powell and Farmer) combined to go six for eleven and drive in four runs. However, I am annoyed that Georgia stranded a dozen baserunners while the bullpen gave up leadoff hits in both innings relievers pitched, allowing both baserunners to come around to score. That may be enough to get it done in Tuscaloosa, but it won’t be when we get to Hoover.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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