COLLEGE STATION, Texas – For eight innings Friday night against Texas A&M, LSU junior righthanded pitcher Aaron Nola put on a clinic on precision pitching as he has done so many times throughout his career.
Then the ninth inning arrived. With the Tigers leading the Aggies 4-0 and in total control, LSU coach Paul Mainieri sent Nola back to the mound to finish things off with a complete game. Nola, though, was lifted after the Aggies scored a run on a sacrifice fly and had a pair of runners on base with just one out, the LSU lead trimmed to 4-1.
LSU's bullpen was unable to close out the Aggies in the ninth. A&M tied the Tigers at 4-4 with LSU righthanded pitcher Joe Broussard on the mound, and had bases loaded with two outs, Blake Allemand at the plate, winning run on third base. Allemand smacked a fly ball down the left field line, and it looked like the Aggies were about to secure a victory. However, LSU outfielder Jared Foster made the play of the year in college baseball with a leaping grab to get out of the ninth inning tied.
The Tigers scored a run in the top of the 10th inning and captured a 5-4 victory with righthanded pitcher Kurt McCune coming in and getting the job done in a tight situation in the bottom of the inning.
While the wild finish and Foster’s amazing catch to save the game will be what many remember about this contest, Nola’s performance can’t be forgotten. The outstanding righty, who likely will be one of the top eight picks in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft, was fantastic against the Aggies, striking out seven, walking three and allowing just three runs on four hits in 8 1/3 innings.
“That was probably the best I’ve seen Aaron Nola since he’s been here,” Mainieri said. “From my vantage point, it always seemed like everything he was throwing was a strike. He’s just a guy who goes out there each time and hits the catcher’s mitt."
Nola displayed elite stuff throughout the night. He sat 91-94 with his fastball, touching 95 on a few occasions. His fastball command was excellent and he was able to throw the pitch for strikes on both sides of the plate. Nola's 77-79 curveball was his best offering in this game, particularly unhittable against lefthanded hitters with much depth and a lot of breaking action. Meanwhile, Nola also consistently worked in his 81-84 changeup, again, for strikes.
“The real special thing about Aaron is like tonight, he had a 3-1 count on a couple of hitters, and he just kept attacking,” Mainieri said. “That's just the type of pitcher he is, and he's the type of guy who just has the command to pull off those types of things.”
While Nola's pitching performance overshadowed any individual showing on the night, LSU shortstop Alex Bregman looked terrific. He squared a few balls up, hit a home run in the first inning, and added a double to go with his three-hit, two-RBI night for the Tigers. Besides looking very good at the plate with an advanced approach, Bregman showed great instincts and stability at shortstop.
We'll have much more on Aaron Nola next week.
TEAM OF THE DAY
Long Beach State
Could Troy Buckley's Dirtbags work their way into the NCAA postseason? It's absolutely possible, especially if LBSU plays like it has the past couple of weeks, winning five of its last eight games, including Friday night's 1-0 win over rival Cal State Fullerton. LBSU righthanded pitcher Andrew Rohrbach struck out nine, didn't walk anyone and allowed just seven hits in a complete game shutout performance. Meanwhile, talented Dirtbags freshman shortstop Garrett Hampson went 2-for-3 against Thomas Eshelman and the Titans, who once again played without head coach Rick Vanderhook … With the win over the Titans, LBSU's RPI climbed to 45 with a 22-21 overall record.
PLAYER OF THE DAY
Jake Stinnett, rhp, Maryland:
The senior righthanded pitcher continues to have outings to remember, leading the Terrapins to a 3-0 home win over Notre Dame. He was impressive against the Irish, striking out 13, walking three and allowed just four hits in a complete game performance.
UPSET OF THE DAY
Georgia over South Carolina
South Carolina has been plagued by injuries the past few weeks, and perhaps that finally caught up with it Friday night in a tough 3-1 setback on the road to Georgia. The Gamecocks got a solid performance from starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery, but were unable to muster much offensively against Georgia lefthanded pitcher Ryan Lawlor, who struck out six, walked just one and allowed a run on three hits in a complete game performance.
Loyola Marymount 3, Pepperdine 2 (P Colin Welmon: 9 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K)
UC Irvine 6, UC Santa Barbara 2 (P Andrew Morales: 7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K)
UC Riverside 7, Cal Poly 3 (2B Joe Chavez: 3-for-4 with a HR, 2 R, RBI)
Kansas 11, Texas Tech 3 (2B Colby Wright: 2-for-4 with a HR, 2 R, 4 RBIs)
Bryce Biggerstaff, rhp, Central Arkansas: How about the senior righty in a 2-1 win over Oral Roberts? He struck out six, didn't walk anyone and allowed just a run and 10 hits in a 10-inning complete game performance. Biggerstaff finished the contest with 129 pitches.
Seton Hall: The Big East regular season title could be on the line with the Pirates and Creighton going at it. The Pirates captured the series opener 8-2 with righthanded pitcher Josh Prevost having yet another impressive showing. Prevost struck out seven, walked two and allowed just two runs on three hits in a complete game performance.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs and Tigers both enter the weekend with something to prove, and it was Mississippi State that drew first blood in a 3-0 road victory. MSU righthanded pitcher Trevor Fitts stuck out three, walked one and allowed just five hits in 5 1/3 shutout innings, while lefthanded reliever Jacob Lindgren was terrific, striking out six in 2 2/3 shutout innings.
Florida: What an impressive conference portion of their schedule the Gators are putting together, notching yet another solid win in a 7-3 road triumph over Alabama. UF freshman righthanded pitcher Logan Shore struck out three and allowed just five hits in six shutout innings, while offensively, leadoff hitter Casey Turgeon had three hits and an RBI.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys have been very impressive here recently and captured another solid win, this time opening a key non-conference series against Arizona State with an 8-5 win. OSU starting pitcher Jon Perrin didn't have a great start, but leadoff hitter Gage Green hit a home run, tallied two hits and knock in a run. First baseman Tanner Krietemeier also had a nice night at the plate with a 3-for-3 performance.
San Diego State: The Aztecs are on the NCAA postseason bubble and began the weekend on a positive note with a 6-5 road win over New Mexico. SDSU first baseman Ryan Muno had a big night at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and three RBIs. UNM was one of the nation's hottest teams entering last weekend's series against UNLV. Now, the Lobos hope to avoid losing two-straight conference series.
Tomas Michelson, rhp, Illinois-Chicago: The veteran righthanded pitcher tossed an absolute gem in a 4-1 win over Milwaukee. He struck out seven, walked one and allowed just a run on five hits in a complete game performance. He threw 103 pitches, 72 for strikes.
Sean Murphy, c, Wright State: In one of the wilder games of the night, the Raiders captured a 14-12 win over Youngstown State at home. Murphy went 3-for-3 with a double, triple, three runs scored and four RBIs. With the win, WSU improved to 26-18, an outstanding 19-2 in Horizon League play.
Mike Franco, rhp, East Carolina: Though the Pirates still are without righthanded pitcher Jeff Hoffman, there's a good chance they would've lost to FIU either way on Friday, losing a 7-1 decision with Franco tossing a gem. Franco struck out seven, didn't allow a walk and allowed just a run on six hits in a complete game performance.
Zack Erwin, lhp, Clemson: Erwin was terrific Friday night in a dominant 8-0 win over James Madison. He struck out four, didn't walk anyone and allowed just six hits in a complete game shutout performance.
Mat Batts, lhp, UNC Wilmington: Batts is consistently very good, and once again put together a solid performance in a home 5-0 win over College of Charleston. Batts struck out nine, walked two and allowed just six hits in seven innings. Overall, Batts has a 2.54 ERA in 85 innings, along with 92 strikeouts and 12 walks.
Preston Morrison, rhp, TCU: The outstanding righthanded pitcher shined in a 5-0 home win over Kansas State. Morrison struck out seven, walked one and allowed just seven hits in a complete game shutout performance. The most impressive aspect of his performance? Morrison threw 97 pitches in the complete game, 66 for strikes.
UCF: With the Knights looking to solidify their postseason bid, they hit the road this weekend to face highly touted Houston. UCF lefthanded pitcher Eric Skoglund struck out five, walked three and allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, offensively, shortstop Tommy Williams finished the night with three hits.
Southern California: It's just the start of the weekend, but the Trojans need to avoid a bad road series loss to the Cougars. USC dropped the series opener 5-2 with the offense having a lot of trouble getting much going off lefthanded pitcher Joe Pistorese, who struck out four and allowed just two runs on five hits in 8 2/3 innings for the Cougars.
Texas: The Longhorns have lost their last two Big 12 Conference series and definitely need to find a way to rebound the rest of the weekend if they want to stay in the NCAA Regional hosting mix. UT righthanded pitcher Parker French allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings in a 5-3 loss to West Virginia. Meanwhile, WVU lefthanded pitcher Harrison Musgrave struck out seven, walked one and allowed three runs in seven innings.