Power hitting puts LSU past Georgia, 8-2

Extra base hits were the order of the night in LSU's 8-2 win over Georgia in their series opener Friday night at Alex Box Stadium. <br> After launching four home runs against Tulane earlier this week, the Tigers hit three out of the park against the Bulldogs, along with four doubles, to win their sixth game in seven outings.

It was the third time this season LSU recorded three homers in one game. Two were career firsts - for second baseman Rocky Scelfo and left fielder Jon Zeringue.

 

Shortstop Aaron Hill provided the third homer, his team-leading fifth of the season, in a 3-for-5 performance. He has homered in five of his last seven games and is hitting .542 over the last eleven games for LSU.

 

"It was good to see us continue to hit the ball well," said LSU head coach Smoke Laval. "We got some hard hits and some line drives, but we need to hit some more ground balls. Even though we got some hard line drives, six out of our first seven hits were pop-ups that were not even scary."

 

LSU's power hitting complemented the third complete game of the season for Lane Mestepey, who improved 7-2 with his fourth straight win. The sophomore lefty allowed two runs on nine hits and struck out five while walking one.

 

Mestepey is 2-0 since being moved to from the Saturday slot to a Friday night starting role.

 

"I'm pitching better as of late so I'm looking good on Friday nights," said Mestepey, "but I'm still doing the same things that I did earlier in the year."

 

The Tigers improved to 22-13 on the season and 6-6 in the Southeastern Conference in front of a home crowd of 4,576. It's the first time LSU has been at the .500 mark in league play since opening the year at 1-1 against Vanderbilt.

 

Georgia, the first place team in the SEC East entering this weekend, dropped to 18-12 and 8-5 in league games.

 

The two teams again meet Saturday for the second game of their series at 2 p.m. Brian Wilson will make his first career SEC start for LSU, and Brandon Moorehead will throw for Georgia in a battle of right-handers.

 

Georgia took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning with an RBI single from Justin McClain. His base hit to left field scored David Coffey, who drew a two-out walk and then stole second.

 

The Bulldogs missed a scoring chance in the third inning. After putting runners on the corners with nobody out, a pair of LSU pickoff plays cleaned the bases.  Even though Georgia went ahead 2-0 on another two-out rally, Laval said his defense allowed the Tigers to keep momentum on their side.

 

"It could have been three (Georgia) guys on with nobody out," Laval said. "It kept us from having to go to our bullpen."

 

Jon Armitage reached on an error to begin the inning, stole second and advanced to third on a single from Chaz Lytle. LSU catcher Chris Phillips made a snap throw to third where Wally Pontiff applied the tag on Armitage for the first out.

 

The second out came when Lytle got hung up between first and second. Mestepey's move to Jason Columbus at first froze Lytle, who was tagged out at second by Hill.

 

With two outs and the bases empty, Georgia strung together three base hits – the last one from Matt Cavender scoring Marshall Szabo.

 

LSU scored its first run in the bottom of the third. Hill got into scoring position with a one-out double to right center and crossed the plate on Sean Barker's two-out single. Barker worked Georgia starting pitcher Mickey Westphal (L, 3-1) to a full count and placed the eighth pitch into left field for a 2-1 score.

 

The Tigers took a 5-2 lead in the fourth with the help of the homers from Zeringue and Hill. Matt Heath drew a walk to lead off the inning and Columbus followed with a double down the right field line.

 

Phillips tied the score when his fly out to center allowed Heath to tag up, and Zeringue put the Tigers in front for good when he took the first pitch from Westphal well beyond the bleachers in left center for his first collegiate career homer.

 

"It felt good coming off the bat," said Zeringue. It was a fastball low and I just got all of it.

 

"People have just been pitching me off-speed stuff all year and I've been swinging at it. But I've started to see the ball better lately and I'm looking for fastballs. I'm laying off the off the breaking stuff."

 

With two outs in the inning, Hill came through on a full count fastball and lined it to the gap in left center for a solo homer. A single in the sixth inning would give him his sixth three-hit performance of the season.

 

"I'm just taking good swings," said Hill. "The whole team is doing it. We're playing with a lot of confidence. Tonight's win was a big one for us."

 

The Tigers' lead grew to 7-2 in the fifth inning when Columbus drove two runs in with another double. His drive to left center scored Eric Wiethorn, who got on with a one-out double to right, and Heath, who walked.

 

"I'm just going back to having fun in the game," said Columbus. "I'm not trying to hit the ball out every time like I did in junior college. I'm just going up there and trying to take good swings."

 

Scelfo got his homer with two outs in the eighth, taking a 2-0 pitch from UGA reliever Scott Lawson to the seats in left center.


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