HOOVER, Ala. -- Catcher Micah Gibbs’ two-RBI single in the sixth and starting pitcher Nolan Cain’s three-hit performance was enough to lift top-seeded LSU to a 3-2 victory over sixth-seeded Georgia Saturday night at Regions Park to advance to the SEC championship game.
LSU defeated Georgia earlier Saturday, 16-0, before edging the Bulldogs in Game 2 to reach the title game.
The Tigers (45-16) will face the No.8-seed Vanderbilt Commodores in the title game at Noon CT on Sunday. Vanderbilt defeated LSU in the opening round of the tournament 4-1. LSU has won four straight games in the tournament to climb out of the loser’s bracket.
The championship game was originally scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.; however, SEC officials opted for a Noon start with the forecast of severe weather in the Hoover area Sunday afternoon.
The championship game will be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network (WDGL 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge). Live audio and stats will also be available in the Geaux Zone at www.lsusports.net.
Sunday’s game will not shown on live television; however, it can be viewed live at www.secsports.com. The game will be shown on a tape-delayed basis on Fox Sports Net (Cable Ch. 38 in Baton Rouge) at 3 p.m. CT Sunday.
LSU seeks its eighth conference tournament title on Sunday. With a win, LSU will be the first team to win back-to-back tournament crowns since Alabama won in 2002 and 2003.
“I can’t say enough about the way our team has battled back to reach the final game,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “After we lost on Wednesday, our philosophy was to take one game at a time and work our way back to the championship game. We’ve won four in a row to get there, and that’s a testament to the determination and resolve of our players.”
Cain (5-0) had one of his best outings of the season as he allowed two runs on only three hits while walking three and striking out five.
After not scoring in game 1, Georgia plated the first run in this game when the Bulldogs loaded the bases with one out in the first and right fielder Lyle Allen hit a deep sacrifice fly to left, scoring leftfielder Zach Cone.
The Tigers tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the third when Dean laced his second double of the game to deep right-center field to score Ryan Schimpf from first.
LSU broke the 1-1 tie in the bottom of the fifth when catcher Micah Gibbs laced a two- RBI single with the bases loaded to put the Tigers ahead 3-1. Gibbs’ single increased his hitting streak to 13 games.
Georgia cut the LSU lead to 3-2 in the sixth when catcher Bryce Massanari singled through the left side scoring Cone.
Paul Bertuccini came on in relief in the sixth and retired designated hitter Joey Lewis on a groundball.
Bertuccini notched his third save of the season when he retired the side in the ninth.
In Saturday’s first game, LSU put together a seven-run first inning and a six-run fifth inning and starting pitcher Daniel Bradshaw pitched a complete game shutout as the Tigers blanked Georgia 16-0 in seven innings.
Bradshaw (4-0) pitched a brilliant game for the Tigers as he threw seven innings and allowed no runs on only three hits, while walking none and striking out three.
LSU got to the Bulldogs in the first when leftfielder Ryan Schimpf singled to left and Georgia starter Alex McRee hit Blake Dean and walked Mikie Mahtook to load the bases for Sean Ochinko with two outs.
Ochinko bounced a grounder in the infield that was too shallow for second baseman David Thoms to make a play on, allowing Schimpf to score and put the Tigers up 1-0.
LSU went up 2-0 when McRee hit Tyler Hanover with the bases still loaded, scoring Dean.
The next batter, Jared Mitchell, was down to his last strike, but slapped a double to right field, scoring Mahtook and Ochinko to give the Tigers a 4-0 lead.
Austin Nola continued the LSU hit parade in the first when he tripled to right-center field, scoring Hanover and Mitchell, extending the LSU lead to 6-0. The Tigers were back to the top of the lineup with DJ LeMahieu and he ripped a single up the middle to score Nola and put LSU ahead 7-0.
After LeMahieu’s hit, officials cleared the field at 1:58 p.m. CT, beginning the four and a half hour rain delay. The game resumed at 6:25 p.m. CT with LeMahieu on first and Schimpf at the plate with two outs.
The new pitcher for Georgia after the rain delay was right-hander Steve Esmonde. LeMahieu stole second and advanced to third when the throw down got past shortstop Levi Hyams. Schimpf flew out to left to finally end the first inning.
The Tigers took an 8-0 lead in the fifth after Ochinko doubled and scored on a fielder’s choice by Mitchell. LSU went up 9-0 later in the inning when Nola doubled, advancing Mitchell to third. LeMahieu’s groundout to short plated Mitchell.
The next batter, Ryan Schimpf, blasted a two-run homer over the wall in left to put LSU ahead 11-0. The Tigers weren’t finished in the inning, as Blake Dean singled to left and scored on a double by Micah Gibbs to make the score 12-0. Gibbs extended his hitting streak to 12-straight games.
LSU capped the six-run fifth inning when Mahtook singled up the middle to score Gibbs and put the Tigers up 13-0.
The Tigers increased the lead to 14-0 in the sixth when pinch hitter Grant Dozar walked with the bases loaded. The next batter, Chris McGhee, reached first on a catcher’s interference call, allowing Mitchell to score from third and make the score 15-0 LSU.
Pinch hitter Chad Jones also walked, bringing home LeMahieu and putting the Tigers ahead 16-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
LSU 16, Georgia 0 (May 23, 2009 at Hoover, Ala.)
LSU................... 700 063 0 - 16 15 0 (44-16)
Georgia............. 000 000 0 - 0 3 3 (37-21)
LSU 3, Georgia 2 (May 23, 2009 at Hoover, Ala.)
Georgia............. 100 001 0 - 2 4 0 (37-22)
LSU................... 001 020 X - 3 8 0 (45-16)
Pitchers: Georgia - Jeff Walters; Will Harvil(4); Michael Palazzone(5); Justin Earls(5);
Cecil Tanner(6). LSU - Nolan Cain; Chad Jones(6); Paul Bertuccini(6).
Win-Nolan Cain(5-0) Save-Paul Bertuccini(3) Loss-Will Harvil(4-2) T-2:30 A-5356
Walters faced 1 batter in the 4th.
Wednesday, May 20
Game 1: #7 Arkansas def. #2 Florida 8-5
Game 2: #6 Georgia def. #3 Ole Miss 6-3
Game 3: #8 Vanderbilt def. #1 LSU 4-1
Game 4: #5 South Carolina def. #4 Alabama 9-5 (11)
Thursday, May 21
Game 5: #2 Florida def. #3 Ole Miss 12-2 (8)
Game 6: #1 LSU def. #4 Alabama, 9-6
Game 7: #6 Georgia def. #7 Arkansas, 2-1 (10)
Game 8: #8 Vanderbilt def. #5 South Carolina, 9-5
Friday, May 22
Game 9: #7 Arkansas def. #2 Florida, 10-7
Game 10: #1 LSU def. #5 South Carolina, 4-1
Saturday, May 23
Game 11: #8 Vanderbilt def. #7 Arkansas, 11-1 (7)
Game 12: #1 LSU def. #6 Georgia, 16-0 (7)
Game 13: #1 LSU def. #6 Georgia, 3-2 (7)
Sunday, May 24
Game 15: #8 Vanderbilt vs. #1 LSU, noon SECsports.com