LSU sophomore starter Aaron Nola is off to one of the best starts in the country from the mound. The former Catholic High (Baton Rouge, La.) standout has managed to throw a complete game in each of his last three starts for the Tigers, in addition to his other impressive statistics for the 2013 season. So far this year, Nola has compiled a record of 8-0 to go along with his 2.14 ERA. He has done all of this through 80 innings while only allowing 54 hits and being responsible for 90 strikeouts. These are numbers that most pitchers only ever dream of having, and Nola is doing it as a sophomore for LSU.
As a freshman, the right-handed Nola was a major contributor in the LSU rotation. While his stats weren't as impressive in 2012, he still had a very good first season in college baseball. Nola finished his freshman campaign by going 7-4 with a 3.61 ERA, while striking out 89 batters in 89.2 innings and allowing 88 hits. Nola credits the experience that he gained last year as the primary reason why he has been successful so far in 2013.
"I feel like I have a lot more experience out on the mound than I did last year," said Nola. "I feel stronger. I've pitched a lot since I've been here. After throwing those three complete games, I know that I can go out there and do it again. I wanted to get to this point sooner, but I'm here now and I have a lot of confidence in my abilities."
For a freshman pitcher to enter the SEC and contribute quickly says a lot about the abilities of that particular player. In the case of Nola, he may not have had quite the season that he had hoped for as a freshman, but he believes that it was a great learning experience in many different aspects of the game of baseball.
"My experience has really helped me," said Nola. "It has taught me how to pitch to hitters. I remember my first SEC start when it was like I was just being thrown into the fire. I got hit around a lot and got welcomed into the SEC pretty quickly. I don't feel like that has happened this year because I have worked to prepare myself well every week."
Throughout the spring, Nola has been known to pound the strike zone a little too much at times, resulting in hits by the opponent. This season has taught Nola that while throwing a lot of strikes is the job of a pitcher, sometimes different situations call for pitches to be out of the zone.
"I have to make quality pitches," said Nola. "You can't make pitches that are too goo with two strikes. That was one problem that I had last year. I would get someone in the hole and then I would throw too many strikes and they would hit me. It's good to throw balls every now and then."
In addition to throwing strikes, LSU coach Paul Mainieri has spoken all spring about the impeccable ability of Nola to locate his pitches. According to Nola, it is something that comes pretty easily for him because of how many hours he has put in to be able to put his pitches where he wants them.
"I get into a rhythm a lot of times on the mound," said Nola. "We work on that stuff so much in practice and in our bullpen sessions that it just kind of comes naturally."
In 2013, Nola has realized that he has a very effective fastball. Because of this, he has the ability to use his primary pitch to keep hitters off balance, something that command of the plate certainly helps with. Through hard work in the offseason, Nola believes that he has improved his ability to be effective with his fastball.
"I usually pitch off of my fastball," said Nola. "I can use my changeup and my curveball when I get ahead in counts. That is what I really worked on in the offseason to improve."
Since arriving at LSU, Nola has gone through quite a transformation, not only physically, but also as a pitcher. Pitching coach Alan Dunn has been a huge part of his success in many aspects of the game, according to Nola.
"He's done so much in the mental part of it and getting me ready before every start," said Nola. "He has really showed me how to pitch and not just throw."
Experience key for Nola
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