BATON ROUGE - The first weekend of Southeastern Conference baseball was a broom closet Sunday.
No. 6 LSU was one of six teams to sweep a three-game series in the 14-team league as it edged Georgia, 7-6, in a nervous ninth inning Sunday afternoon in front of about 10,000 at Alex Box Stadium. The Tigers (16-5, 3-0 SEC) won 22-9 on Friday night and 5-1 on Saturday night over the Bulldogs (8-13, 0-3). Also sweeping in the league were unranked Arkansas over Mississippi State and - in a shocker - unranked Auburn over No. 5 Florida, which hosts LSU this weekend. In the East, No. 12 South Carolina swept No. 30 Tennessee, No. 25 Missouri swept Alabama and Kentucky swept No. 13 Texas A&M in another surprise.
"Let me tell you, the first goal every weekend is not to get swept," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "I bet you there are six teams who probably wish they would've accomplished that goal. It's a lot easier to get swept in this league than it is to sweep a series, so when you have an opportunity to do it, you've got to do it if you want to play for the championship."
LSU brought what seemed like a comfortable 7-4 lead into the ninth inning Sunday, but Georgia pushed across two and had the tying run on third when new closer Caleb Gilbert struck out designated hitter and cleanup batter Michael Curry with three sliders to end the game and earn his second save in less than 24 hours. Gilbert, a sophomore right-hander from Hoover, Alabama, is LSU's closer for the time being with regular closer Hunter
Newman out for two to six weeks with a back injury.
"It felt great to get out there and solidify two wins," said Gilbert, who allowed two singles and a RBI double to Tucker Maxwell to open the ninth. "Going into next weekend at Florida, it's a great feeling."
Gilbert then buckled down and got Cam Shepherd to ground out to second and Keegan McGovern to ground out to first for two outs, but McGovern reached third on the McGovern grounder.
"I went with my best stuff - three straight sliders," Gilbert said. "I was just trying to go out there and execute pitches. We need Hunter back, and when he comes back he's going to take back the job. And I'll slide back to the eighth inning (as the set-up reliever)."
Newman is expected to visit a doctor early this week for an update on his back.
"He said he's feeling better," Mainieri said. "It's been encouraging. We'll see."
Gilbert got the save for LSU starter Eric Walker, who allowed five hits and three runs in six innings with eight strikeouts and no walks for the win to improve to 3-0.
"Caleb was throwing the ball hard. He was throwing strikes," Mainieri said. "He made some big pitches when he needed to at the end against some very tough hitters. And we were able to eke out a win. Like I told my players at the end of the game, 'Welcome to the SEC.' Nothing comes easy in this league. You earn everything you get. It was a grind today."
And it likely will be for the next nine weekends.
"The league will be just like it always is," Mainieri said. "The team that wins the league the year before (Mississippi State) can finish dead last the next year, and vice versa."
Mississippi State is tied for last in the SEC West at 0-3 now.
Cole Freeman's RBI single had giving LSU a 7-4 lead in the seventh after a run scored on an error for a 6-4 advantage. After a scoreless eighth, Georgia struck for the two runs in the top of the ninth. Georgia scored a run in the top of the seventh to get within 5-4.
Greg Deichmann's bases-loaded sacrifice fly to left field gave LSU a 5-3 lead in the sixth inning. Georgia reliever Tucker Bradley had loaded the bases with nobody out by hitting three consecutive batters - Kramer Robertson, Cole Freeman and Antoine Duplantis. After Deichmann, Zach Watson and Jake Slaughter each flied out to end the inning.
LSU came back from a 2-1 deficit in the fifth inning with three runs to take a 4-2 lead. Watson walked with the bases loaded to tie the score 2-2 off Georgia starter Chase Adkins, who hit Robertson and walked Antoine Duplantis and Deichmann before Watson. Bradley relieved at this point and immediately walked Josh Smith with the bases loaded for a 3-2 LSU lead. Then Beau Jordan delivered an RBI single for the 4-2 advantage.
Georgia cut it to 4-3 in the top of the sixth on an RBI single by Aaron Schunk off Walker, who left after retiring the side in the sixth.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a two-out RBI single by Deichman. Georgia took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on a two-run home run by ninth batter Will Proctor, which was his third of the season.
NOTES: Antoine Duplantis was 8-for-10 with 10 RBIs in the first two games against Georgia, but he was held hitless Sunday, going 0-for-3 with a walk, a run scored, a strikeout and a bouncer into a double play. ... There were nine hit batsman Sunday - four by LSU pitchers and five by Georgia pitchers.
NEXT UP: LSU hosts Southeastern Louisiana at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday before playing at Florida Friday through Sunday.
Glenn Guilbeau covers LSU sports for the USA Today Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter at @LSUBeatTweet. Coverage of LSU and commentary by Guilbeau supported by Hebert’s Town & Country Automobile Dealer in Shreveport located at 1155 East Bert Kouns Loop. Research your next Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep or Ram at http://hebertstandc.com/.
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