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LSU catcher Brock Mathis (22), a sophomore from Fairfield, Ohio, looks out on the field after the third game of a series against Georgia on Mar. 24, 2018 at Foley Field in Athens, Georgia. LSU lost the three-game series. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

ATHENS, Ga. — LSU loaded the bases in the top of the ninth inning Sunday, but a late, furious rally against No. 9 Georgia came up short.

The game-tying run stood on second base as the No. 7 Tigers fell 9-7 at Foley Field.

Unsuccessful at the plate for most of the weekend, LSU (17-7, 4-2 SEC) scored six runs in the game’s final two innings. But Georgia (21-3, 5-1) hit three home runs to win the series, one that coach Paul Mainieri said resembled an NCAA super regional.

“These last two games were a toss-up just like the first game,” starting pitcher Eric Walker said. “We can not lose confidence from this. We fought hard, and we didn't give up today.”

The Tigers trailed 6-1 entering the eighth inning after Walker gave up a grand slam and Trent Vietmeier allowed two runs. They had scored four runs this weekend against Georgia’s pitching staff, which brought the eighth-lowest ERA in the country into the series.

They realized they had to put together a rally.

To open the inning, Josh Smith hit a leadoff home run, his second of the year. Chris Reid cut Georgia’s lead in half with a sacrifice fly. Left fielder Daniel Cabrera launched a two-run home run to bring the Tigers within a run.

LSU, which entered the game batting .140 (8 for 57) against the Bulldogs, soon placed runners on first and second with one out. Two fly balls ended the inning.

The lead cut to 6-5, pitcher Devin Fontenot entered for the bottom of the eighth. He had not allowed a run over his last 11 2/3 innings. After issuing a leadoff walk, Fontenot gave up his first home run of the season.

Two batters later, he gave up another one. LSU fell into a 9-5 hole.

“The outcome just wasn’t what I expected,” Fontenot said.

Still, LSU gave itself another chance to take the lead in the final inning. Smith singled. Zach Watson got robbed of a home run for the first out. Antoine Duplantis singled, Reid walked and the Tigers loaded the bases.

Cabrera hit an RBI single. Another run scored on a hard-hit groundout.

Brandt Broussard walked to the plate with the bases still loaded and two outs. He had entered the game for starting second baseman Hal Hughes when Hughes misread a sign earlier in the game.

Broussard hit a sharp ground ball — right at Georgia third baseman Cole Tate, who stepped on the nearby bag, ending the game and LSU’s late rally.

"I'm really proud of our guys," Mainieri said. "They never gave up."

The day before the series began, Mainieri called LSU’s upcoming stretch the “most difficult” of the season. Beginning at Georgia, the Tigers faced back-to-back road series against top-10 teams, with a trip to Mississippi State starting Thursday.

LSU grabbed one win here, but it left knowing it could have won two more. In a pitchers’ duel on Saturday, a couple late runs evened the series. On Sunday, a few mistakes stunted a comeback.

“We shouldn't hang our heads or anything,” Cabrera said. “The luck just didn't fall our way.”


Follow Wilson Alexander on Twitter, @whalexander_.