ATHENS, Ga. — Paul Mainieri felt his team squandered something Saturday afternoon.
Watching pitcher Cole Henry deliver one of LSU’s best performances of the season, Mainieri thought the freshman resembled a future star.
But the No. 7 Tigers gave up two runs in the eighth inning and lost 2-0 against No. 9 Georgia at Foley Field as the Bulldogs evened the Southeastern Conference series.
Disappointment twinged Mainieri’s voice after the game.
“It's just a shame to waste such a tremendous pitching performance we got out of Cole Henry,” Mainieri said. “He was absolutely phenomenal.”
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Henry continued a run of quality pitching for LSU (17-6, 4-1). Henry, who began the season out of the bullpen while he started midweek games, entered the weekend rotation two weeks ago. Though he had not allowed many runs, he had yet to pitch longer than five innings.
Against Georgia (20-3, 4-1), Henry pitched seven shutout innings. Already owning the second-longest outing of the year by an LSU pitcher, he walked out for the eighth inning of a scoreless game having thrown 88 pitches. He had allowed two runners on base, one because of an error. He felt strong.
Georgia first baseman Chaney Rogers singled to open the eighth inning. He advanced to second on a bunt. As closer Todd Peterson warmed up in the LSU bullpen, Henry issued his first walk of the game. Mainieri pulled him with one out and two runners on base.
Zack Hess led No. 7 LSU to a win over No. 9 Georgia on Friday night.
“Coach says SEC games are so fragile,” said Henry, who struck out eight. “Anything can happen. In a split second, a game can turn around. It just happened today.”
Peterson, who has blown two saves this year, threw a low slider to his first batter. Georgia pinch hitter Austin Biggar knocked the ball softly through the right side of the infield. Rogers scored, breaking the tie.
Another single loaded the bases. Georgia scored again on a sacrifice fly, the runner sliding over home plate just before the throw. Both runs were charged to Henry, giving him the loss, but Peterson had to grapple with the feeling of another sour outing.
“I thought those were good pitches,” Peterson said. “I just — I ... I don't know. I wasn't good enough I guess.”
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Peterson ended the inning before another run scored, but the Tigers didn't overcome the deficit in a game defined by pitching.
Instead of clinching a weekend road series and feeling the elation of Henry's performance, LSU digested the regret of a close loss.
“I wish we could have got him something,” Mainieri said. “He deserved to win.”