Aaron Nola dominates Tulane in 5-0 win

Freshman limits Green Wave to three hits and the Tigers chip away with five two-out runs.

NEW ORLEANS – Dominant pitching and timely hitting are a tried-and-true recipe for success on the baseball diamond, and LSU can be as effective as anybody in the country when it gets both elements.

That's particularly true when the 11th-ranked Tigers get those things from players outside the familiar cast of characters.

LSU churned out a 5-0 triumph over Tulane at Turchin Stadium on Tuesday night, with freshman right-hander Aaron Nola dominating the night and the Tigers' offense generating all of their runs with two-out hits.

JaCoby Jones

Nola was spectacular, tossing eight shutout innings and surrendering only three hits as LSU (11-2) notched a sixth consecutive victory. The Green Wave (10-3) got only one runner past first base and that was in the first inning.

That threat dried up thanks to a nice leaping grab by second baseman JaCoby Jones that turned into an inning-ending double play in the first inning.

"I thought the key play to the game was the play that JaCoby Jones made in the first inning," Tigers coach Paul Mainieri said.

"It kept them from a big inning. If he doesn't make that catch, it's a run in, first and third again with one out. So it's going to probably be a two-run inning. Instead it's a double play and they don't score and Aaron settled in."

Once Nola found his groove, he was nearly untouchable.

Tulane got hits in the second and fifth innings and Nola hit a batter with one out in the eighth – Bowen Woodson was erased by a 6-4-3 double play. Around those few blemishes, though, Nola was splendid as he worked ahead – 62 of his 78 pitches were strikes – and recorded four 1-2-3 innings.

"Once I was in the groove with first pitch strikes, I was on," said Nola, who at one point fired 25 consecutive strikes. "Getting that first-pitch strike really settles you down and relaxes you. Once you get ahead in the count, it boosts your confidence a lot."

Added Mainieri, "Aaron Nola was simply phenomenal (Tuesday). Just a tremendous performance by a true freshman pitching on the road in front of a big crowd. He was outstanding (Tuesday), and he demonstrated why he has a chance to be one of the best pitchers we've had here."

Tuesday won't register was one of the Tigers' more explosive offensive nights of the season, but how they got their runs left Mainieri pleased.

LSU peppered the Wave for 12 hits and five were of the two-out, run-producing variety.

The bottom of the lineup was especially productive as Tyler Hanover (3-for-4), Grant Dozar (2-for-3, RBI 2B), Ty Ross (1-for-4, 2 RBIs) and Chris Sciambra (2-for-4, RBI 2B) combined to supply 8 hits in 15 at-bats.

Ross broke the seal on the scoring column in the second inning. After Tulane starter Alex Byo coaxed two quick groundouts, Hanover whipped a single to center field and Dozar shanked an opposite-field double into the left-field corner to puts runners on second and third base.

Continuing a trend he began last weekend with a pair of bases-loaded hits, Ross drilled a 1-0 offering from Byo that landed on the right-field line to score Hanover and Dozar. Ross was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double, but the damage was done.

"I thought Ross set the tone for the game with his clutch hit," Mainieri said.

Grant Dozar

The Tigers extended the lead in the fourth inning when Raph Rhymes beat out an infield single that Brennan Middleton nearly gobbled up for an out. Byo plunked Austin Nola, but got Hanover on a popup to right for the second out. Dozar worked the count full and then punched a laser to left to plate Rhymes.

Byo found his rhythm and didn't bend for the next four innings. But Jones rifled a one-out hit to center field in the eighth inning and swiped second base on a bang-bang play. After Mason Katz chopped out to third base, Rhymes produced a soft liner to center for his team-high 18th RBI.

Andrew Garner took over for Byo and ended that threat, but LSU got to him for a run in the ninth inning when Hanover led off with his third single and raced home on Sciambra's two-out double to the left-center field gap. Sciambra matched his hit total for the season's first 12 games on Tuesday.

"We had a lot of clutch hits," Mainieri said. "Two outs all of them."

"Every one of them was up the middle or to the opposite field. That's something that the kids have been working very hard on. They've totally bought into that concept. If we're not going to hit the ball out of the park, then let's use the whole field and be tougher outs."

With the five-run cushion, Mainieri lifted Nola after 8 innings, the longest stint for an LSU pitcher this season.

Chris Cotton began the ninth inning and got Green Wave leadoff hitter Brandon Boudreaux on a comebacker. Nick Goody trotted in and smothered Tulane's two-and three-hole hitters, striking out Garrett Cannizaro and Jeremy Schaffer for his seventh scoreless appearance of the season.

Nick Goody

"I have a feeling that kid's just a gamer," Mainieri said. "He didn't pitch so great in intra-squad games, but I think when he gets into these real games and the light goes on, that kid's going to be there for us."

The Tigers head into a busy weekend, with Michigan and Notre Dame headed to Baton Rouge for a three-team, five-game round-robin series. LSU will face the Wolverines at 7 p.m. Friday and 6:30 p.m. Saturday and then the Fighting Irish at 3 p.m. Sunday and 6:30 p.m. Monday. Michigan and Notre Dame will square off vs. each other at noon Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday.


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