Aaron Nola tossed another gem, surrendering just two hits with 10 strikeouts in eight scoreless innings to earn his sixth win of the year. The Tigers (22-8-1, 4-5-1 SEC) put together seven hits and jumped ahead early to ride Nola the rest of the way, snapping a four-game winless streak in SEC play.
Paul Mainieri. "He takes his specialness to another level every time he pitches."
MSU (20-11, 6-4) didn't provide much of a threat against Nola, only getting eight base runners the entire game. The Bulldogs recorded four at-bats with runners in scoring position, and Nola got a strike out each time.
In the third, MSU advanced a runner to third with one out after an error by Christian Ibarra and a sacrifice bunt. But Nola dialed in and struck out the next two batters to escape the inning.
MSU also put runners on first and second in both the fourth and sixth innings, but those frames would end the same way — a strikeout.
"I just try to put the game in front of me," Nola said of his mentality with runners in scoring position. "Some guys will try to speed it up and their hearts start beating fast, but I just stay calm."
As Nola dazzled yet again, the Tigers mustered enough offense to get the victory.
LSU jumped out to an early two-run lead after plating a pair in the third. Sean McMullen opened the inning with a triple to deep center field. Mark Laird followed that with a three-bagger of his own down the right field line.
Alex Bregman tacked on the other run in the inning with a single through the left side.
"Those back-to-back triples were a thing of beauty," Mainieri said. "We got that north wind blowing today, and I thought it would be really hard to get extra base hits. But McMullen and Laird both got the bathead through."
LSU added an unnecessary insurance run in the next inning. Tyler Moore walked on four pitches to start the frame and moved to second on an infield single by Andrew Stevenson. A groundout by Ibarra advanced both runners into scoring position, and McMullen brought in the run with a sacrifice fly to left field.
And with Nola on the mound, that was more than enough.
"I look forward to every Friday night, not only because it's the series opener, but because Aaron's such a competitor," McMullen said. "Just watching him compete in tough situations is really inspirational."
Nola cruised with a three-run lead but came out after the eighth, reaching the 116 pitch mark. Joe Broussard replaced him and retired the side in order to record his sixth save of the season.
LSU kicked off the series on a positive, but the rest of the weekend remains in doubt as weather forecasts predict heavy rain both Saturday and Sunday. The two teams will not play a doubleheader Saturday though, and first pitch for Game 2 will be at 6:30 p.m.
"We're going to battle the elements tomorrow, try to squeeze it in, then worry about Sunday when it comes," Mainieri said.