For the second consecutive night LSU used home-run power in the bottom of the eighth inning to come from behind and defeat Georgia in Alex Box Stadium.
On Friday night, it was Austin Nola’s two-run homer that completed the scoring and gave the Tigers a 6-5 victory. On Saturday night, it was Mason Katz’s grand slam that turned a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead. Raph Rhymes followed Katz with another homer for insurance as LSU went on to prevail 8-4. Rhymes went 2-for-4, leaving his NCAA-leading batting average at .503.
“I guess we save them for the best times,” Rhymes said. “We’re really not a home run-hitting team. The last two nights we just put some good swings on the ball. There aren’t a lot of times we can rely on the home run, but it’s good to know that when a big situation comes up it can happen and at-bats don’t come any bigger than that one Mason had.”
The Tigers (35-9, 14-6 Southeastern Conference) moved into a tie with Kentucky for the overall league lead. LSU will try to complete its third consecutive sweep of an SEC home series in the finale at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The eighth-inning outburst sent the season-high crowd of 8,607 home happy after what had been a frustrating night. The Bulldogs (24-20, 8-12) took a 4-2 lead in the third and held it through the seventh.
Tigers reliever Joey Bourgeois (2-2) pitched three scoreless innings in relief of starter Ryan Eades, who gave up seven hits and four runs, two earned, in five innings, to keep his team in the game. Nick Goody struck out the side in order in the ninth.
“We wouldn’t have even been in position to come back if not for Joey Bourgeois,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “He was really the key to the game. He kept us within striking distance, and the offense took care of it from there.”
Georgia reliever Pete Nagel, who was thrust into the game to start the fifth when starter Michael Palazzone was injured, retired nine straight batters before LSU got to him to start the eighth.
Jordy Snikeris led off the eighth with a double into the left-field corner. JaCoby Jones followed with a liner into right-center for another double. Snikeris leaned back toward second to make sure the ball cleared the infield, then slipped as he broke for third and had to stay there.
Georgia coach Davis Perno brought in closer Blake Dieterich, and his first pitch hit Arby Fields, loading the bases. Katz, who already had two hits and an RBI, drilled a 2-1 changeup into the seats in left-center for his team-leading eighth home run, giving him a career-high five RBIs.
“I was just thinking fly ball to deep center field,” Katz said. “I figured at least I’d get one in and maybe two. I got a good swing on it. We’re not going to hit home runs all the time, but when they come, they certainly help.”
Rhymes followed with his home run off of Dieterich (3-3), and one out later Tyler Moore doubled, advanced to third on a wild pitch and continued home to score the final run when catcher Brandon Stephens’ throw sailed past third.
“Nagel dominated us for three innings, and then I thought the key at-bat of the whole night was Jordy Snikeris leading off the eighth with a great at-bat and smoking that ball for a double,” Mainieri said. “Once we got that going and we got the crowd into the game, we started having some good a-bats and it was like a runaway freight train at that point. We gained confidence and there was energy in the stadium.”
Georgia jumped on Eades for two runs in the first. Curt Powell led off by hitting the second pitch of the game over the fence in left-center for a 1-0 lead. And Conor Welton hit a sacrifice fly for 2-0 lead.
LSU came right back to tie the score in the bottom half. Katz had an RBI double, and Austin Nola brought in Katz with a sacrifice fly.
Eades ran into trouble with two outs in the fourth as Peter Verdin and Brett DeLoach each drove in runs.
After Eades gave up a double and a walk to start the sixth and in came Bourgeois.
“I felt like I was settling in a little bit (in the fourth and fifth),” Eades said. “I was getting a better feel for my pitches. I’m just glad Joey came in behind me and got the job done. “He was phenomenal.”
Bourgeois got a strikeout, grounder and foul-out the escape the sixth-inning jam.
“When I got to the mound, I told him, ‘Ryan, I’ve got your back. I’m going to get you out of this jam,’ ” Bourgeois said, “and I stuck to my word.”
Bourgeois (2-2) hit a batter with one out in the seventh and gave up a two-out walk in the eighth, but that was it.
“We were down 4-2, and all I did was go in there and live pitch by pitch,” he said. “I didn’t know how long I was going to be in there. ... My off-speed stuff was working, and that’s why I was successful. I threw a lot of curveballs for strikes, and it always feels better when you have two pitches you can throw for strikes.”
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