Georgia's Cam Shepherd (7).
Photo: Joshua L. Jones/AP
Photo: Joshua L. Jones/AP

Walk-off homer lifts UGA in SEC Tournament opener

Better late than never.

Cam Shepherd’s home run with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs a 2-0 walk-off win over Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. on Wednesday. It was only the third hit of the game for Georgia, which had been no-hit through 7-1/3 innings by Aggies’ freshman starter Chris Weber.

“It was a great swing and a clutch play by a clutch player,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said.

It was the seventh home run of the season for Shepherd. The junior shortstop had seen his average dip to .229 before hitting the ball over the left-field wall at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, just out of the reach of the glove of A&M’s leaping Cam Blake.

“I put a good swing on it, and I thought I got enough of it,” Shepherd said. “When I saw him get to the wall and time his jump, my head dropped a little bit. Then, I saw he didn’t have it, and it did go out. I got really excited and saw all my teammates come running out of the dugout.”

Randon Jernigan broke up the no-hitter with a single to left in the seventh. Designated hitter John Cable got the Bulldogs’ only other hit with a two-out single to left in the ninth.

The victory was the first in the SEC Tournament since 2011 for the Bulldogs (43-14), who had gone 0-8 since then. Zac Kristofak (5-0) got the win.

Georgia will get tNo. 2 seed Arkansas, a 5-3 win over Ole Miss. Freshman Cole Wilcox (3-1, 4.17) will start for the Bulldogs Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

Texas A&M’s strong pitching came as no surprise to Georgia or anybody else. The Aggies came in as the only SEC team with a lower team ERA (3.10) than the Bulldogs (3.17). Weber, a left-hander, was 4-0 with a 2.79 ERA.

Georgia countered with Tim Elliott, a junior right-hander who spent most of the season as a mid-week starter. He gave up just two hits but had three walks before being lifted with one out in the sixth.

That’s when the Bulldogs made one of the most amazing double plays in a season full of them. With the bases loaded and one out, first baseman Patrick Sullivan fielded a hard grounder down the line, came home for the force out and then caught catcher Mason Meadows throw back to first behind the head of the ducking Zach Deloach for a rare 3-2-3 double play.

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