BATON ROUGE, LA. - Cory Acton, Parks Harber and Connor Tate hit two home runs apiece while Jack Gowen had another three-inning save to lead 16th-ranked Georgia past No. 20 LSU 12-7 Saturday in front of a crowd of 11,067 at Alex Box Stadium.
The six home runs were one shy of the most in an SEC game by the Bulldogs after they hit seven in a 14-2 rout of No. 1 Vanderbilt 14-2 last year in Nashville. After LSU closed the gap to 8-7 in the seventh, Gowen got the Bulldogs out of a huge jam and picked up his ninth save including his third, three-inning save of the season.
The Bulldogs (30-13, 12-8 SEC) are 13-for-13 in save situations this season including 25-0 when leading after six innings. Earlier this season, Gowen notched three-inning saves against No. 16 Florida and at South Carolina. The Tigers dropped to 28-14 overall, 11-9 in the SEC.
Georgia ace Jonathan Cannon, who came in leading the SEC in Earned Runs Average at 1.55, improved to 8-1 as he had one rough inning where the Tigers erased a 2-0 deficit. Cannon had allowed just one home run on the year and the Tigers hit two as part of a four-run outburst in the second inning. Still, Cannon was able to go five innings and scatter eight hits with one walk and one strikeout. Bryce Collins, one of seven Tigers to pitch Saturday, allowed a pair of runs to fall to 2-1.
"Jack came in in a tough spot; it's 8-7 with men on first and second and nobody out," said Georgia's Ike Cousins head baseball coach Scott Stricklin. "They laid down a bunt and we got the out and then an intentional walk. It's bases loaded, and he goes to a 3-2 count and gets a big strikeout and then a groundout after that. He settled in the rest of the way. I'm really happy for him, and he picked up Jaden (Woods). He's one of our best guys. Jaden had one real good inning and then didn't have it after that. He'll be back, I'm not worried about him. Jack picked us up with three innings against that team in this park and that's tough to do."
Graduate Ben Anderson started the game off with a seven-pitch at bat that resulted in a leadoff walk. Acton followed with a two-run blast to left field. It was his second home run of the year and staked the Bulldogs to a 2-0 lead. LSU threatened in the bottom of the first with a couple of hits including a leadoff double by Josh Pearson but Cannon and the Bulldogs kept them off the scoreboard. In the second, Josh McAllister reached with a one-out double and scored on a base hit by Chaney Rogers for a 3-0 advantage.
LSU responded with a four runs in the second on back-to-back home runs by Tiger freshmen. Josh Stevenson tied the game with a three-run blast for his first career home run, and then Josh Pearson followed with a solo shot, his fourth of the year. Coming into the game, Cannon had allowed just one home run all season. In the fifth, the Bulldogs tied the game. With one out, Anderson extended his hitting streak to eight games with a single. He went to second when Acton was hit by a pitch and took third on a wild pitch by Jacob Hasty. Tate's slow roller to third allowed Anderson to race home to make it 4-all.
In the sixth, Georgia surged ahead 6-4 on a two-run double Chaney Rogers off Tiger reliever Riley Cooper. Harber got the inning started with a base hit and Garrett Blaylock drew a walk. McAllister moved the runners with a sacrifice bunt. LSU looked to the left-handed Cooper to face the left-handed hitting Rogers who drilled an 0-1 offering over the head of Dylan Crews, allowing both Bulldogs to score.
Sophomore left-hander Jaden Woods got the call to start the sixth in relief of Cannon, and he promptly struck out the side. In the seventh, Tate crushed his seventh home run of the year, a solo shot over the scoreboard in left field off Trent Vietmeier. It was his second of the series and 21st of his career. Two batters later, Harber followed with a solo shot of his own to make it 8-4. It was Harber's eighth of the season. LSU answered in the seventh as the first five hitters reached including a three-run home run by Jacob Berry, his 14th, to trim Georgia's lead to 8-7. With two on and nobody out, Georgia looked to Gowen. Jordan Thompson put down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners. Georgia opted to intentionally walk Brayden Jobert to load the bases. Gowen fell behind Tyler McManus 3-1 and battled back to strike him out. He then got Stevenson to ground out to first to end the Tiger rally with Georgia clinging to an 8-7 lead.
Tiger sophomore right-hander Eric Reyzelman came on in the eighth and struck out the side, then started the ninth by getting Anderson swinging. However, Acton ended the streak with a solo shot to left field for his second home run of the contest and his second straight three-hit game. It was Acton's third of the year and extended Georgia's lead to 9-7. Tate followed with his second home run of the afternoon, a towering opposite field blast to right for a 10-7 lead. It was Tate's eight this year and 22nd for his career. The back-to-back home runs was a first for the Bulldogs this year and first since Riley King and Garrett Blaylock did it at top-ranked Vanderbilt last year. LSU went back to its bullpen and brought in Garrett Edwards. He walked Collins and then Harber joined the two home run-club on the day with another shot to centerfield and a 12-7 lead.
"I don't remember if I've ever had three guys hit two home runs apiece in a game," Stricklin added. "I thought Cory Acton's second one in the top of the ninth was probably the biggest one of the game for us just because they had momentum. (Eric) Reyzelman had struck out four in a row. Ben Anderson had a real good at bat right before Cory hit that home run , and that may have worn him down a little bit. He throws so hard and when you throw 96-97, and you get the barrel on it, it's going to go. That's what happened with Cory's and Connor's too. Then, how about Parks Harber's story as he didn't start very well. He had two misplays at third that he should make. He grounds into a double play in his first at bat and then goes 4-for-4 after that with two home runs. It was a big day for Parks too."
The series concludes Sunday with first pitch scheduled for 2:02 p.m. ET, and it will be available on SECN+ and the Georgia Bulldog Sports Network.