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John Cable (42), a grad-student from Roswell, Georgia, uncertainly looks at the ball he hit as he starts his run towards first base during the first game of a series against Presbyterian College on Mar. 8, 2019 at Foley Field in Athens, Georgia. Georgia led the Blue Hose 17-0 in the bottom of the 8th inning. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

A ground ball hit to Cole Tate at third base ended a late LSU rally and secured a critical series victory for Georgia over the Tigers.

LSU didn’t go down easily, but an offensive outburst pushed the Bulldogs past the Tigers in Sunday’s series finale for a 9-7 win.

With Bulldog closer Aaron Schunk on the mound, LSU went into the ninth inning trailing 9-5. But an RBI single and an RBI groundout cut that lead to 9-7, and the Tigers threatened for more with the bases loaded and two outs. Had Randon Jernigan not robbed Zach Watson of a two-run home run for the first out of the ninth, things could have looked a lot different.

 “That's a momentum changer,” head coach Scott Stricklin said of Jernigan’s catch. “All of a sudden he gets to the wall, and you're like, ‘Oh no.’ And he makes a great catch. It was just demoralizing.”

Schunk then got the ground ball he needed to get out of the late jam, as Tate stepped on the third base to secure Georgia’s first series win over LSU since 2011 and the first under Stricklin.

“It's a good feeling to know that we step on the field, and we're every bit as good as them,” Stricklin said. “To be honest with you, every time that we stepped onto the field, I felt like we needed some things to go our way to win.”

The ninth-inning rally was set up by a four-run top of the eighth that cut Georgia’s lead to 6-5. The Tigers led off with a solo homer, then drove in another on a sacrifice fly and made things interesting with Daniel Cabrera’s two-run homer.

The Bulldogs went through four different pitchers in the inning, but Schunk narrowly escaped the jam, and the Georgia bats delivered in the bottom of the inning to extend Georgia’s lead to 9-5.

“I was really making sure that I stayed low in the zone and tried to get some ground balls, just cause I didn't have stuff that was going to blow people away today,” Schunk said.

Austin Biggar, who replaced Mason Meadows after he fouled a ball off his face, launched a two-run homer over the right field fence to give Georgia some breathing room. Tucker Maxwell added on with a solo shot of his own over the scoreboard.

The first two and a half innings of Sunday’s series finale looked a lot like the first two games. But in the bottom of the third, a two-out Georgia rally sparked the offense and changed everything.

After Riley King and Aaron Schunk lined back-to-back singles, LJ Talley was intentionally walked to load the bases and bring up John Cable. Knowing Cable’s tendencies, it seemed there were only two possible outcomes: either he would make an out or hit one out of the park. He did the latter, launching the first pitch he saw onto Kudzu Hill in right field for a grand slam that gave Georgia a 4-0 lead.

“I went up there with a little chip on my shoulder, and knew that I was going to get a good pitch to hit, and got one, and delivered with it,” Cable said.

Tony Locey took the mound for Georgia with a tough act to follow after two stellar outings from Emerson Hancock and C.J. Smith in games one and two. Locey didn’t look his best, but he got the job done. While he’d recorded at least nine strikeouts in all but one start going into Sunday, against LSU, he recorded just one strikeout and walked five. But he worked 5 1/3 innings and allowed just one run to earn his fourth victory of the season.

“It's really tough to lose games when you don't beat yourself,” Stricklin said. “We tried to today with the walks—way too many walks…But we found a way, our guys toughed it out, and had some big hits.”

Top Performers

John Cable – The grad transfer was the difference in Sunday’s series finale. After LSU chose to face him over Talley in the bottom of the third, he launched a no-doubt grand slam, his second of the season, to give Georgia a 4-0 lead.

Daniel Cabrera – The LSU left fielder launched a two-run home run in the top of the eighth that cut Georgia’s lead to 6-5. He picked up another RBI in the top of the ninth, delivering a single to cut Georgia’s lead to three.

LJ Talley – Talley got on base four times on Sunday. In the second inning, he lined a single the other way through the left side of the infield. He was intentionally walked in the third to set up Cable’s grand slam, then worked another walk in the sixth and hit an RBI single in the seventh.

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