ATHENS, Ga. -- For the third consecutive game against No. 13 Georgia, No. 6 Arkansas staked itself to an early lead.
For the second game in a row, the lead was short-lived and the Bulldogs beat the Razorbacks 3-2 on Saturday to clinch the series and claim the No. 3 seed in the upcoming SEC Conference Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (37-17, 18-12 SEC) tied with Ole Miss at the top of the Western Division, but the Rebels secured the No. 2 seed based on their series victory against the Hogs in the regular season. Arkansas is the No. 4 seed but will get a first-round bye.
Arkansas, which lost all of its SEC road series, had its chances to pull even with Georgia (37-17, 18-12), which scored single runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings. The Razorbacks left five runners aboard, including four in the last four innings.
Arkansas' best opportunity to tie the game came in the top of the ninth inning after Heston Kjerstad opened the frame with a double to left field and advanced to third when Bulldogs catcher Austin Biggar couldn't handle a pitch from Ryan Webb with nobody out.
Carson Shaddy struck out and Grant Koch was intentionally walked, putting runners on the corners with Dominic Fletcher coming up. Fletcher, who has 32 RBI this season, hit a short fly to left field and Kjerstad was cut down at the plate by Georgia's Keegan McGovern.
"[Kjerstad] was sent, and I'm fine with it," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "You've got a left-on-left matchup [and] you've got a .214 hitter [Jared Gates] coming up. Fletcher was the bat. That's the guy who has to get the run in, and it just wasn't a good at-bat.
"He got jammed on the first pitch of the at-bat. I don't blame [Kjerstad], and you've got to give the left fielder credit. He made a throw, and if it's just off a little bit, he beats it."
The ending was a new experience for the Georgia left fielder.
"No, I do not think I have ever seen [a game] end like that," McGovern said of the bang-bang play at the plate. "I was just happy I could come through for my team like that at the end. That was nice."
Kole Ramage, who had made 15 appearances but only one start this season, earned the start and pitched 4⅔ innings while allowing 6 hits (including a McGovern home run), 2 runs, 1 walk and 5 strikeouts.
"I just complimented him in front of the whole team," Van Horn said of Ramage. "We didn't feel we were going to use [Isaiah] Campbell, but he was feeling better this morning and kind of wanted to pitch, but we'd already made the decision to go with Ramage and just give us a few innings, and he ended up giving us almost five and just did a super job. That's a big positive plus for us."
"Kole did a great job for us," added Koch, who started for the first time this weekend after injuring his ankle last week. "He's a guy we really needed to step up and do exactly what he did. He was really calm and did what he needed to do, and it was good to see that out of him."
Evan Lee came on in relief of Ramage in the fifth and faced three batters, allowing 1 hit, 1 walk and 1 run. The run scored on Michael Curry's home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to give Georgia a 3-2 lead and Lee (4-3) a loss.
Campbell threw the final 3 innings, allowing 1 hit to go with 3 strikeouts.
"Isaiah had all of his pitches going and really competed for us," Koch said. "He gave us a shot."
The Razorbacks' first run came in the second inning when Shaddy hit a one-out double off the left-field wall, then scored when Koch singled to almost the exact same spot. Georgia responded in the bottom of the third inning when McGovern hit his 15th home run of the season.
Arkansas scored again in the fourth inning when Luke Bonfield led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice fly by Kjerstad. After Shaddy struck out, Koch drove the ball off the left-field wall, easily scoring Kjerstad.
The Bulldogs made it 2-2 in the fifth inning when Mitchell Webb doubled, moved to third on a bunt single by Biggar and scored on a sacrifice by C.J. Smith, at which time Ramage was lifted for Lee.
Curry's game-deciding home run was his 10th this season.
"It really just came down to getting a big hit here or there," Van Horn said. "You've got to give Georgia credit -- they held on."
Koch finished 2 for 3 with 2 RBI to lead the Hogs. Nobody else had more than one hit.
Van Horn said the team plans to stay in Athens on Saturday evening and travel to Hoover on Monday. The SEC Tournament begins Tuesday, and the Razorbacks will play a to-be-determined opponent Wednesday.
At a glance
SEC BASEBALL TOURNAMENT
at Hoover (Ala.) Metropolitan Stadium
All times Central
NOTE All games will be broadcast on SEC Network, except the championship game, which will be on ESPN2.
GAME 1 (6) Vanderbilt vs. (11) Texas A&M, 9:30 a.m.
GAME 2 (7) Auburn vs. (10) Kentucky, 30 minutes after Game 1 ends
GAME 3 (8) LSU vs. (9) Mississippi State, 4:30 p.m.
GAME 4 (5) South Carolina vs. (12) Missouri, 30 minutes after Game 3 ends
GAME 5 (3) Georgia vs. Game 1 winner, 9:30 a.m.
GAME 6 (2) Mississippi vs. Game 2 winner, 30 minutes after Game 5 ends
GAME 7 (1) Florida vs. Game 3 winner, 4:30 p.m.
GAME 8 (4) Arkansas vs. Game 4 winner, 30 minutes after Game 7 ends
GAME 9 Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser, 9:30 a.m.
GAME 10 Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 30 minutes after Game 9 ends
GAME 11 Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 4:30 p.m.
GAME 12 Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 30 minutes after Game 11 ends
GAME 13 Game 9 winner vs. Game 11 loser, 3 p.m.
GAME 14 Game 10 winner vs. Game 12 loser, 30 minutes after Game 13 ends
GAME 15 Game 13 winner vs. Game 11 winner, noon
GAME 16 Game 14 winner vs. Game 12 winner, 30 minutes after Game 15 ends
SUNDAY'S CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
GAME 17 Game 15 winner vs. Game 16 winner, 2 p.m.
Sports on 05/20/2018
Print Headline: Bulldogs cost Hogs two seed