HOOVER, ALA.- Georgia rallied off All-American closer Jonathan Holder to force extra innings and then fell to 16th-ranked Mississippi State 5-4 in 10 innings Tuesday in the first round of the SEC Baseball Tournament.
A Hoover Metropolitan Stadium crowd of 8,175 saw Georgia fight back when it was down to its last strike in the ninth and then lose on a errant throw on a sacrifice bunt in the 10th.
Georgia concludes the season with a record of 26-29-1.
“Tonight proved our guys are fighters, they believed they were going to win the game in the ninth and had some great at bats to tie it,” said Georgia coach Scott Stricklin. “They did it in a big venue here in the SEC Tournament, and it’s tough to lose like that, but they fought until the end.”
Georgia, the 12th seed, held a 2-1 lead going the sixth when State, the fifth seed, struck for three runs on one hit. It was provided by pinch-hitter Wes Rea, a two-run double off of junior Jarrett Brown. Senior right-hander Dylan Cole had provided the Bulldogs with a career-high five innings but ran in to trouble in the sixth. The right-hander hit Brett Pirtle on a 1-2 offering. Then, he hit Seth Heth with a pitch. Catcher Gavin Collins moved both in to scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Georgia went to Brown, and Rea smacked his first pitch in to the gap in right centerfield. State added another run on a fielder’s choice later in the frame for a 4-2 edge.
State (36-20) took a 1-0 lead in the second when Heck had a leadoff double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Cody Brown. Georgia responded in the top of the third off Lucas Laster. Sophomore designated hitter Sean McLaughlin led off with a base hit and freshman Mike Bell moved him to second with a bunt. After a walk to freshman Stephen Wrenn, junior Conor Welton extended his hitting streak to a career-best 10 games with an RBI-single. Junior Hunter Cole gave the Bulldogs a 2-1 advantage with an RBI-groundout. Laster entered the contest with a scoreless inning streak of 17.2 innings which Georgia snapped in the third. Laster pitched in to the ninth before giving way to closer Jonathan Holder who had 37 career saves and was the anchor of a bullpen that had allowed just four earned runs in the past 45 innings.
Leading 4-2 in the ninth and with one out and one on, State looked to Holder. He struck out catcher Brandon Stephens and got ahead of freshman pinch-hitter Skyler Weber 1-2. Weber worked the count full and laced a single to right. McLaughlin followed with an RBI-single and that closed the gap to 4-3. Pinch-hitter Jess Posey stepped up and tied the game with a single to right. Junior Jared Cheek took care of the ninth to force extra innings. Holder retired the Bulldogs in order in the tenth. In the bottom of the inning, Collins reached with a single and Derrick Armstrong was hit by a pitch. Jake Vickerson put a sacrifice bunt down and Stephens’ throw to first was wide of the bag and in to right field, allowing Collins to score for a victory. Holder got the win to move to 6-1 while Cheek fell to 5-6.