Nola tosses third consecutive complete game as No. 2 LSU beats Gamecocks
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Sophomore right-hander Austin Nola (8-0) threw his third consecutive complete game Friday at Alex Box Stadium, lifting No. 2 LSU (39-4, 16-3 SEC) to a 5-2 victory against No. 11 South Carolina (31-12, 11-8 SEC).
The Tigers’ 39-4 overall mark is the best 43-game record in school history, and LSU’s 16-3 league record is the school’s best conference mark since the 1986 club was also 16-3.
Nola became the first LSU pitcher to throw three consecutive complete games since left-hander Greg Smith in 2005, who accomplished the same feat against Ole Miss, Arkansas and Vanderbilt. Nola allowed two runs on six hits Friday while striking out eight in his nine-inning performance.
Nola won for the eighth time this season in eight decisions as he limited the Gamecocks to two runs on six hits with no walks and eight strikeouts, firing 112 pitches.
LSU and South Carolina face off again Saturday in Game 2 of the series at Alex Box Stadium.
“Aaron Nola delivered another outstanding performance for us tonight,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “He seems to get better with each outing, and he gets stronger as the game goes along. His endurance has improved, his stuff is amazing, and he’s so efficient with his pitches. I know we can’t rely on him to throw a complete game every Friday night, but we’re grateful that he’s capable of going the distance.”
Designated hitter Sean McMullen (2-for-3) gave the Tigers an early 2-0 advantage in the second inning with a bases-loaded, two-RBI single to right field against South Carolina starter Nolan Belcher.
LSU began the fourth inning with three straight singles from catcher Ty Ross, second baseman JaCoby Jones and right fielder Jared Foster. McMullen then collected another RBI on a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Ross from third base. Ross, Jones and Foster finished Friday’s game a combined 6-for-10.
Shortstop Alex Bregman extended the Tigers’ lead to 4-1 with his 42nd RBI of the season on a single to left field in the sixth inning.
The Tigers got another run in the seventh on an RBI laser by Ross, who collected two hits and scored twice in the contest.
South Carolina shortstop Joey Pankake cut the Tigers’ lead to 5-2 in the ninth with a solo home run to left. However, Nola bounced back and retired the next three Gamecock hitters in order, including two strikeouts.
Belcher (6-4) was charged with the loss, as he allowed four runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings with four walks and four strikeouts.