It was another pitchers’ duel for No. 5 Georgia and No. 10 LSU, but this time the Bulldogs topped the Tigers, 2-0, Saturday afternoon at Foley Field in front of a season-high crowd of 3,344.
The Georgia (20-3, 4-1 SEC) win forces a Sunday rubber match and gave LSU (17-6, 4-1 SEC) its first loss in the Southeastern Conference this season. The game’s first and only runs came in the eighth inning, mirroring Friday’s results when LSU scored the lone run in the seventh inning.
The first inning foreshadowed the rest of Saturday’s game as both team’s starting pitchers struck out two batters. Georgia sophomore C.J. Smith proceeded to go six innings, giving up four hits, one walk and tying his career high in strikeouts with seven. LSU freshman Cole Henry (1-1) set a new career mark in strikeouts with eight, and yielded just two hits and a walk, but was responsible for Georgia’s winning runs when he departed in the eighth inning.
The first walk of the game wasn’t until the top of the sixth by Smith. The Bulldog lefty then got down 2-0 to an LSU batter, prompting the first mound visit from freshman catcher Shane Marshall. The visit paid off as Smith struck out the batter to tie that career-high strikeout mark and escape the inning.
Georgia replaced its battery to start the bottom of the seventh with freshman right-hander Cole Wilcox taking the hill and Mason Meadows behind the dish. Wilcox sent the Tigers down in order in the seventh with one strikeout, but put two runners on with one out in the eighth.
With the Tigers threatening, Georgia went to the bullpen again for Justin Glover (1-0). The junior left-handed reliever got out of the jam thanks to a diving catch from second baseman LJ Talley who then flipped it over to shortstop Cam Shepherd to double up the Tiger runner, and sending the Bulldogs to the bottom of the eighth.
Now, it was Georgia’s turn to play small ball. After freshman Chaney Rogers led off with a single to right field, junior Tucker Maxwell bunted him over. Then in Meadows’ first plate appearance, the sophomore drew a four-pitch walk to chase Henry out of the game. The Bulldogs also made a move, tabbing Austin Biggar for pinch-hit duties. The junior cashed in on the opportunity with a single through the right side of the infield that brought Rogers racing home for the game’s first run. Now at the top of the order, Shepherd filled the bases with a single and sophomore Riley King hit a sacrifice fly that plated Meadows for an insurance run that the Bulldogs didn’t end up needing.
To seal the game in the top of the ninth, junior third baseman/closer Aaron Schunk switched from third base to the mound and recorded his eighth save of the season. The Tigers got a leadoff single, but that was as far as the runner advanced. Maxwell chased down a deep fly ball to left-center, and a fielder’s choice brought it to two outs. On the final play, Rogers, who ignited the eighth-inning scoring, made a diving play to his right at first base to stop the ball and flipped it to Schunk to shut the door on the Tigers.
-Junior shortstop Cam Shepherd (2-4) was the only Bulldog with multiple hits and just the second play in the game to do so too. He extended his reached-base safely streak to five games. He has at least one hit in each of the first two games of this series. Additionally, Shepherd got Georgia’s first hit of the game when he shot a ball in between third base and shortstop in the bottom of the third inning.
-Riley King’s sacrifice fly RBI put him in the team lead with 26 RBIs. He was tied with Tucker Maxwell at 25.
-Junior lefty Justin Glover got the win (1-0). He is now 2-2 all-time, but this was his first win in SEC play.
Ike Cousins Head Baseball Coach Scott Stricklin
On the pitching staff…
“C.J. Smith did great today. I mean he pitched six scoreless innings and got himself into some trouble with some leadoff hits but he always got out of it. He is the type of guy that stays cool and calm. He never gets too high or too low. He just battles his way out of it. Cole Wilcox gave us a great seventh, Justin Glover pitched an outstanding eighth and Aaron Schunk closed it out for us in the ninth.”
On the batters…
“I tell all our hitters that they just have to keep battling. Cole Henry pitched really well today, his fastball had a lot of life on it and some of our guys just had a hard time catching up to it but they just kept pushing. Our pitching staff and our defense kept putting up zeros and that really gave us a chance especially as the home team. I’m glad we put some runs on the board in the eighth so we didn’t have to do it in the ninth.”
On the crowd…
“The crowd today was awesome. I had chills, it was the loudest I had ever heard it in here. If you looked up the hill there were people packed up there and people were looking through the fence down the third baseline. We’ve just had two great crowds who have gotten to watch unbelievable baseball games.”
Junior 3B/P Aaron Schunk
On finishing out the series…
“We’ve played two really great games against a really great team. It’s come down to a pitchers duel and both teams batters have been battling. But I feel like we have a lot of confidence in ourselves as a team so having that atmosphere in the locker room is always a huge boost.”
Sophomore P C.J. Smith
On his performance…
“Last week I was just leaving the ball up a lot so it felt really good to come out and start strong. The first couple innings I dropped the ball down and I just felt really good about how I was pitching.”
“This is a swing game. Whoever wins this game typically goes into the next game with some momentum so it’s a huge thing to have this win. We have Tony Locey on the mound tomorrow, he’s a competitor and it will be a huge benefit for us.”
Georgia and LSU conclude the weekend series Sunday with first pitch scheduled for 12 p.m. at Foley Field.