Aaron Nola started the 2013 season the same way he finished 2012.
The sophomore righty went 6 2/3 scoreless innings of two-hit baseball with nine strikeouts to help pace No. 10 LSU (1-0) to a 1-0 victory against Maryland (0-1) on Friday night. The win marked the program's 12th consecutive opening day victory and showed fans Nola can handle being the ace.
"He dominated the game. That was a Gausman-esque type of performance for us," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri, comparing Nola to former star Kevin Gausman.
The outing was pretty much how Mainieri drew it up with Nola giving way to the hard-throwing Joey Bourgeois before Chris Cotton came in for the four-out save. Nola proved his freshman season wasn't a fluke, retiring 20 of the 23 batters he faced and 11 straight at one point.
"That was a good game," Nola said. "That's what we're going to have to do all year is pull out those one-run games. I had all my stuff working tonight. I felt good out there."
Nola exited the game with two outs in the seventh inning after he got Maryland LF Michael Montville to pop out to center. Bourgeois entered and struck out DH Anthony Papio to end the frame.
Bourgeois and Cotton combined to get the next six outs and give LSU the victory.
Cotton earned his first save of the season, needing only 17 pitches to finish the game. Expected to start Sunday, Cotton now appears set for the bullpen as fellow closer Kurt McCune may be unavailable with back spasms.
Should McCune be unable to go Saturday, Cotton would stay in relief while Brent Boinvillain will take the mound to start the series finale.
"It depends on how McCune feels and how Cotton feels," Mainieri said (Cotton said he felt fine after the game). "If McCune isn't available, we'll take it one game at a time. We'll go for the win tomorrow and worry about Sunday later."
It was a frustrating night for LSU offensively, as the Tigers managed just one run spread on nine hits. The lone bright spot came from Chris Sciambra, who went 4-for-4 in his first game back from a neck injury last season.
He also accounted for the game's only run when he scored from third on an Alex Bregman single in the third inning.
"It was an unbelievable atmosphere," said Bregman, playing in his first college game. "It was more than I ever dreamed of. This team is something special."
JaCoby Jones also had a productive game, reaching base in all three at bats including a pair of walks.
"He laid off some real tough pitches," Mainieri said. "I've seen JaCoby maturing and showing a different aura about him. It was a tough night to hit with the wind blowing in and the cold. And their pitcher was really good."
Maryland starting pitcher Jimmy Reed did his part, striking out three hitters in five innings of work with only the lone run allowed. But the night belonged to Nola, who gave fans plenty of reasons to feel secure about the top of LSU's rotation this season.
LSU will look to improve offensively Saturday when Ryan Eades takes the mound against Maryland righty Brady Kirkpatrick. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.
No. 10 LSU takes season opener with 1-0 win
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