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LSU Takes Series Opener from Georgia 6-2 Behind Arm of Ma'Khail Hilliard

Hilliard gets LSU into sixth inning with savvy pitching, Tigers offense combines for three home runs in win.

Behind the steady arm of veteran Ma'Khail Hilliard and a trio of homers from the offense, LSU was able to secure a 6-2 series opening win over top 25 Georgia. 

It wasn't a particularly efficient night on the mound for the Friday starter Hilliard, as it took 113 pitches to get through six innings. But what Hilliard does incredibly well is find ways to limit damage, which is exactly what he did throughout his outing. 

Outside of one two run homer in the third, Hilliard showed why he's been such a reliable option as a Friday starter as that was the only runs he'd allow despite Georgia putting some good swings together. Two times in the first four innings the Bulldogs were able to load the bases and each time the veteran savvy of Hilliard got him out of the jams.

He retired the first with back-to-back strikeouts to load the bases and then in the fourth, forced a softly hit line drive to second baseman Cade Doughty to escape trouble. Time after time Johnson has said how much confidence he has in Hilliard to keep LSU in that opening game and he's been proven right practically every weekend. 

Hilliard would retire six of the last seven batters he faced and finished by allowing eight hits and seven strikeouts while leaving nine on base before turning the game over to the bullpen. He didn't have his best stuff on the night but did enough to get LSU through some tough spots and keep the Tigers from burning through many of their big arms.

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LSU's offense looked like it had a couple of days to work on its approach and it showed with an overall successful night at the plate. The Tigers were catapulted by some great swings from catcher Tyler McManus and Doughty, who each blasted two run homers of their own to help give LSU an early 4-2 advantage.

While the big swings were needed, LSU did its best to put the ball in play, with eight of the nine starters all picking up at least one hit en route to the early lead. Over the course of the second through fourth innings, the Tigers did most of their damage, with freshman Josh Stevenson also adding an RBI via sac fly to the scoreboard to give a little more breathing room. Dylan Crews would also add an insurance run in the seventh to extend the lead to four.

But how the LSU pitchers would perform ultimately dictated how the Tigers would come out of this one. This bullpen once again showed why it's so good at picking one another up. After Eric Reyzelman put two on base in a critical one out seventh inning, Riley Cooper would come in and blow away the next two batters on strikeouts, ending the threat. 

Paul Gervase would then step up in the eighth when Cooper ran into trouble, forcing an inning ending pop fly to strand two more runners. In total, the LSU pitching staff would leave 13 Georgia baserunners stranded.

LSU will look to take the series Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. before the Garth Brooks concert. 

(Photo courtesy of LSUsports)