No. 9 LSU drops two at Georgia
Tigers fall twice in doubleheader; now 1-5 in conference play
ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia swept ninth-ranked LSU in a doubleheader 9-5 and 3-2 Sunday in front of 2,083 at Foley Field to win a Southeastern Conference series.
In game one, a six-run outburst in the second inning sparked Georgia to a 9-5 victory as Bulldog Michael Palazzone pitched a complete game. Due to inclement weather Saturday, Sunday’s doubleheader featured a pair of seven-inning contests. The Bulldogs evened their SEC record to 3-3 and are now 11-13 overall including 6-8 against ranked teams. Georgia opened conference play last week at fourth-ranked South Carolina.
In the first game Sunday, LSU (17-7, 1-5) jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first after a Curt Powell error allowed designated hitter Raph Rhymes to advance to second. Rhymes advanced to third on a Palazzone wild pitch before centerfielder Mikie Mahtook scored the runner on a single to centerfield. Palazzone struck out Austin Nola to end the frame.
Georgia responded in the bottom half of the second inning by sending 11 batters to the plate, scoring six runs on six hits. Centerfielder Zach Cone led off the inning with a walk and scored on a double scorched down the leftfield line by designated hitter Brett DeLoach. DeLoach moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by first baseman Kevin Ruiz. Freshman Conor Welton (2-for-3, double, two runs) gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game, scoring DeLoach on an RBI-single to center. After a failed pick-off attempt by LSU starter Kevin Gausman which allowed Welton to advance to third, freshman catcher Brandon Stephens drove a single to right extending the Bulldog lead to 3-1. A single by Powell and a hit-by-pitch by Peter Verdin loaded the bases for Georgia. Shortstop Kyle Farmer (1-for-3, double, three RBIs) promptly cleared the bases with a double to leftfield, giving Georgia a 6-1 lead.
Errors by Powell and second baseman Levi Hyams allowed the Tigers to threaten in the top of the third. A single to left by third baseman Tyler Hanover plated leftfielder Trey Watkins to trim the Bulldog lead to four. A dribbler off the bat of Mahtook (2-for-4, two RBIs) who singled and advanced to second on a throw to the plate, scored Jacoby Jones from second and put runners on second and third for the Tigers. A two-run single by Nola cut the Georgia lead to one at 6-5. Of the five runs scored by the Tigers, none of them were earned
Palazzone (3-1) was able to overcome several miscues by his defense to record the win in a seven-inning complete game. The junior righthander allowed seven hits over seven innings but did not allow an earned run, as three errors by the Bulldog defense led to all five Tiger runs. Palazzone struck out four, while walking none.
“Palazzone was great, and he was really poised,” said Georgia head coach David Perno. “It turned ugly, and it really shouldn’t have but I was pleased that we came back and scored a run and kept tacking them on. That was pleasing because we didn’t have to use a single other arm in the first game.”
Gausman gave way to right-hander Jimmy Dykstra after walking Ruiz to begin the bottom of the third. Gausman (2-2) allowed seven runs on six hits over two innings, while walking two and striking out two. After Ruiz stole second and moved to third via a groundout by Welton, Stephens (2-for-2, two RBIs) provided his second consecutive RBI-single giving Georgia a 7-5 lead. The freshman catcher recorded his first multi-RBI game in red and black. LSU rightfielder Mason Katz made an acrobatic diving catch and doubled-off Stephens to end the Bulldog threat.
Ruiz led off the Bulldog half of the fifth with a solo home run to right field, his first of the season and second of his career. A double by Welton chased Dykstra who allowed two runs on four hits in two-plus innings in relief of Gausman. LSU turned to righthander Kevin Berry, who induced a sacrifice bunt from Stephens to record the first out of the inning. A sacrifice fly by Hyams scored Welton from third, extending Georgia’s lead to 9-5.
In addition to a memorable performance at the plate, the Bulldogs also had a season-high four stolen bases in four attempts with Verdin, Cone, Ruiz and Powell all stealing a base in the game.
In the second game of the doubleheader, Georgia received quality pitching from starter Craig Gullickson, Blake Dieterich and Tyler Maloof and took advantage of four LSU errors en route to a 3-2 victory.
Georgia was able to capitalize on two LSU miscues in the first inning to jump out to an early 1-0 lead. Shortstop Levi Hyams hit a single to left field that was bobbled by Tiger leftfielder Trey Watkins, which allowed Hyams (1-for-3, two runs) to advance to second. The junior moved to third on a single by Farmer and scored on a wild pitch by LSU starter Ben Alsup.
In the bottom of the third, the Bulldogs were able to take advantage of another costly LSU error as Hyams scored on a dropped fly ball by Watkins, his second error of the game, off of the bat of Farmer. Zach Cone then ripped a single down the leftfield line, scoring Farmer and putting Georgia up 3-0. Cone (1-for-3, one RBI) advanced to second on a failed pick-off attempt error by Alsup, the Tigers fourth error of the game. Alsup got Brett DeLoach to ground out to end the Bulldog third.
A towering home run off the bat of Mikie Mahtook cut the Bulldog lead to two in the top of the fourth. Mahtook was the main offensive contributor for LSU in the series, hitting .417 (5-for-12) with two home runs and five RBIs. Austin Nola followed the solo shot with a double off of the wall in left-center. A diving play by Kevin Ruiz recorded the second out for Georgia, but an error by Farmer off of the bat of first baseman Alex Edward allowed Nola to score bringing the score to 3-2.
Gullickson (2-1) was able to contain the potent LSU offense, limiting them to two runs on four hits over four innings of work. Gullickson, who struck out two while walking none, gave way to Dieterich in the top of the fifth. Georgia’s two starters in the doubleheader combined to pitch 11 innings while allowing only one earned run, striking out six and surrendering no walks.
“I thought Craig did a great job and he deserved the win,” Perno said. “He pitched great today and the one home run he gave up was probably a bad pitch call on our part.”
Dieterich immediately got into a jam in the fifth, allowing a one-out walk to Jacoby Jones and single to Raph Rhymes. The lefty got a gentle flyout from Tyler Hanover to rightfield, which advanced Jones to third. After an intentional walk to Mahtook, Dieterich got a flyout by Nola to the warning track in center to end the LSU rally.
Alsup (3-3) gave way to right-hander Ryan Eades in the bottom of the fourth. The Tiger starter allowed three runs, none of which were earned, on three hits over three innings of work. He struck out three, while walking none.
Dieterich recorded the first two outs in the top of the sixth before allowing a single to catcher Jordy Snikeris. Snikeris advanced to second on a wild pitch and was replaced by pinch runner Beau Didier. Pinch hitter Ty Ross drilled a single to centerfield but Cone threw a strike to home plate to nail Didier at the plate and preserve the 3-2 lead for Georgia.
Bulldog junior Tyler Maloof, the SEC saves leader, came on for the Bulldogs in the top of the seventh. He quickly got Jones to ground out before allowing a one out single to Rhymes. Maloof retired Hanover via a popout to second before getting Mahtook to ground out to second to close the game for the Bulldogs. Maloof is now tied for third nationally in saves with eight.
“It was a big day for us and we knew it,” stated Perno. “We brought the guys here early this morning and let them know that you don’t want to lose ground this early. We took a one pitch at a time approach and executed really well. I thought we pitched well and got the big inning. We were able to get the big inning, lose some ground and still win the game. That was an experience for us out there.”
Georgia will return to action Tuesday night against 15th-ranked Clemson in Clemson, S.C. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. and the game will be televised on CSS.