LSU flirts with no-hitter in 9-0 victory

LSU didn't surrender a hit until the eighth inning, and the offense came alive in a 9-0 victory against Virginia Tech on Friday. Aaron Nola tossed seven hitless innings and the Tigers cruised past the Hokies to move to 5-0.

No. 5 LSU didn't surrender a hit until the eighth inning, and the offense came alive to push the Tigers to a decisive 9-0 victory against Virginia Tech on Friday night in Alex Box Stadium.

Aaron Nola tossed seven hitless innings before giving way to the bullpen with a nine-run lead. The Hokies (1-2) would break the no-hitter with two outs in the eighth, but LSU (5-0) managed to keep them off the scoreboard to preserve the shutout.

Meanwhile Sean McMullen and Christian Ibarra each drove in three runs to fuel a Tiger offense that notched its largest run total of the season.

"I thought it was a really nice performance across the board by our team," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "Obviously when your pitcher goes out and throws seven no-hit innings for you then you have a pretty good chance to win. I don't know if you've noticed this, but he's pretty good."

That might just be the understatement of the season. Nola finished with eight strikeouts on 87 pitches and only allowed two of the 23 batters he faced to reach base. His appearance was the longest a LSU pitcher had taken a no-hitter since 1995, and the Tigers have still never had a nine-inning no-hitter in program history, whether by an individual or combined.

Nola may have had a strong case to continue pitching, but ultimately he wasn't left with much choice.

"There was no argument," Nola said. "Coach sounded pretty demanding when he told me [I was coming out]. But it's early in the season, and I understand where he's coming from. We're not trying to rush anything."

Nola said the longest he'd gone in college before Friday without surrendering a hit was six innings. He tossed a couple in high school, and Mainieri's confident this won't be his final chance to toss a no-hitter.

"He'll pitch some no-hitters down the line in his career," Mainieri said. "It's my job to make sure he's healthy. I'm sure if I'd given him a choice, he would've wanted to go out and pitch the no-hitter, but that was the right thing to do."

Virginia Tech had a batter reach base on an error in the first inning and the only other base runner came on a two-out walk in the third. After that, Nola retired the next 13 batters before giving way to Alden Cartwright to start the eighth.

Cartwright retired the first two batters he faced, but Hokie pinch-hitter Tom Stoffel broke up the no-no with a single to right. Virginia Tech would get one more hit in the ninth, but the Hokies failed to get a runner past second base and never really threatened LSU offensively.

"[Nola] was perfect tonight," said Chinea, who's caught him in both starts this season. "Every pitch he located perfectly. Every night he comes out here and just deals, and tonight was an A-plus performance."

Nola had the benefit of pitching with a sizable lead. The Tigers jumped out to a 4-0 lead after a big second inning. Chris Chinea got it started, reaching on an error by the shortstop. Tyler Moore moved him to second, and Chinea advanced to third on a sacrifice fly.

Andrew Stevenson drove him in with a single to left, and Sean McMullen cleared the bases with a three-run shot to right.

"That was a good confidence boost," McMullen said. "Stevenson's hit before that really got the ball rolling, and we turned it on. It was just a good game."

The Tigers didn't let up, tacking on five more runs in the next two innings. LSU put up three in the third courtesy of a two-run single by Ibarra and another driven in by Moore.

Christian Ibarra found his swing Friday
Chinea added one more with a sacrifice fly in the fourth, and Ibarra drove in his third run of the game with a two-out single to right. Ibarra had been slumping through the season's first four games, but he finished Friday 3-for-4 from the plate and increased his batting average from .182 to .333.

"I watched a couple videos from the [College] World Series, and I was pretty locked in," Ibarra said. "I just made a couple adjustments, and I was on tonight…My timing was off [before Friday]. I was always out in front, but today was good."

Virginia Tech hosted a NCAA regional a year ago, but the Tigers made quick work of them Friday to move to a perfect 5-0 to start the season. LSU will look to continue that hot start on Saturday against Toledo (3-3).

Kyle Bouman will take the mound for LSU, looking for his second win of the year. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.

"It was a really good performance against a pretty solid team from the ACC," Mainieri said. "I'm not really sure where you can find fault with our team tonight. There's not much to critique. We're going to enjoy the fact that we played really well and get ready to play tomorrow."


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