Aaron Nola threw a two-hit shutout while Tyler Moore and Mark Laird had run-scoring hits in the eighth inning as LSU defeated Oklahoma 2-0 in the first game of the Baton Rouge Super-Regional on Friday night at The Box.
HOW THEY SCORED
LSU eighth inning - With one out, JaCoby Jones tripled. Moore, a pinch-hitter, brought home Jones with a double. After Sean McMullen lined out to shortstop, Laird singled home pinch-runner Jared Foster. LSU 2, OKLAHOMA 0
Laird was the one Tigers player who had much success against Oklahoma ace Jonathan Gray. Laird had two of the five hits off Gray - singles in the fourth and sixth innings. Then, he delivered a RBI single off reliever Ralph Garza with two out in the eighth inning. Laird has now hit safely in four consecutive games in which he has been 7-for-17. The three-hit game for Laird was his first since May 11 against Texas A&M.
LSU STARTING PITCHER
Nola matched Gray pitch-for-pitch for seven innings. In fact, Nola was more effective. The Sooners only had three base runners for the night. Matt Oberste was hit by a pitch in the second and doubled in the fifth. Colt Bickerstaff had a single in the eighth. Nola picked Oberste off first base in the second. The Sooners had their one threat after Oberste's leadoff two-bagger in the fifth. He moved to third on a bunt by Hector Lorenzana. Nola then struck out Anthony Hermelyn and got Bickerstaff to ground out to Jones at second base. Nola retired 11 batters in a row between Oberste's double in the fifth and Bickerstaff's single in the eighth. The shutout was the third of the season for Nola to tie the school record. Three other LSU pitchers had three shutouts in a season - Randy Wiles in 1970, Ben McDonald in 1989 and Brian Tallet (2000). Nola was the first Tigers hurler to throw a two-hit shutout in a NCAA tournament game. Nola, who lowered his earned run average to 1.68, struck out six in winning his 11th game of the season.
LSU started the night with the highest winning percentage in NCAA tournament games at .726 (130-49). However, the Tigers had won just seven of 40 NCAA tournament contests when scoring fewer than five runs. The 2-0 victory was LSU's eighth in which it scored four runs or less. This victory was only the Tigers' second in the NCAA tournament when they scored two runs. LSU beat Florida 2-1 in the 1996 College World Series. . .The last shutout thrown by a Tigers pitcher in a NCAA tournament game occurred in 2004 when Lane Mestepey blanked Texas A&M 4-0. . .The last two-hit shutout in any game for a LSU pitcher took place in 2009 when Louis Coleman beat Arkansas 5-0. . .McMullen, who injured a hamstring last Saturday against Sam Houston State, was back in the lineup. He was in his usual leadoff spot as the designated hitter. McMullen went 0-for-3 and drew a walk. . . The triple by Jones was his first of the season. . .Moore was sent up as a pinch-hitter for Andrew Stevenson with Jones on third base and one out in the eighth. The double was Moore's ninth of the year. . .Gray gave up two runs and five hits in 7.1 innings. He walked two and struck out nine. McMullen and Raph Rhymes were the only Tigers starters who didn't strike out against Gray. No LSU runner got past first base until Jones with his triple in the eighth. . .LSU was 2-for-3 with runners in scoring position. . .The actual crowd was 11.095 - the largest ever for a home baseball game at LSU. . .On two occasions, the Tigers have lost a super-regional series after winning the first game - 2001 against Tulane at Zephyr Field and 2012 against Stony Brook at The Box. LSU is now 56-9, one victory shy of the school record. The 1997 national championship team won 57 games. . .The loss ended Oklahoma's eight-game winning streak. The Sooners, who were shut out for the third time this season, are 43-20. Oklahoma won the 2010 super-regional at Virginia after losing the first game of the series.
FROM THE LOCKER ROOM
Coach Paul Mainieri
"What a ball game. It was as great of a pitchers' duel as you'll ever see. On one hand you have a guy who was the third pick in the draft and on the other hand you have Aaron Nola. Our guys have looked forward to facing (Jonathan Gray). But, people might forget that we had a pretty good pitcher as well. I wouldn't trade him for anyone in the world. He was fantastic tonight and we've seen this before. I told the team that we needed just one good rally because Nola was pitching for us."
(on performance by Aaron Nola) "When things get tough, Aaron is able to raise his game to another level. He recognizes when the game is on the line and he has the innate ability to bring it to another level. All the good ones have that."
(on Alex Box Stadium/Skip Bertman Field atmosphere) "You haven't lived until you experience this with the crowd and the atmosphere. Anybody that hasn't been to Alex Box Stadium for a game like this needs to put it on their bucket list. The crowd was into the game. The umpiring was very good. Both teams played very good. It was a very crisply played game that did college baseball really proud. It was an awesome ball game."
(on pinch-hit by Tyler Moore) "He's had a knack for getting big hits his whole career. There was the double this year against Alabama (in the SEC tournament), the home run against Stony Brook last year and the double which led off the winning rally against Stony Brook. I've been hard on Tyler. I have set high standards for him. He's watching the game (while on the bench), but not as a fan. I wasn't ready to use him because I wasn't expecting a triple (by Jones). Fortunately, there was a pitching change and he had time to get ready."
(on the difficult day with the draft being conducted) "This was as tough a day as I have had coaching. I stayed up late until 11:30 (Thursday) night praying that JaCoby Jones get picked. When he didn't, I texted him and told him to hang in there and get a good night's sleep. Fortunately, he was picked early (Friday). It's a tough day for these guys. First, their future is being decided. Then, they are getting ready to play their most important game of the year. We had four guys get drafted today. But, there were some guys who were expected to get drafted and didn't. I thought Ty Ross would get drafted today and he didn't. But, he went out there and caught a good game."
(on starting Ryan Eades Saturday) "I told Ryan before the game that he was going to start Saturday. I wanted to see where he was drafted. I had to make sure he wasn't heartbroken and down in the dumps. I wanted to know the mental state of mind he was going to be in. He should be very relaxed (Saturday)."
"JaCoby came up big and that was a huge momentum booster for us. Coach (Mainieri) told me not to be afraid to do something with the slider. He told me that he may come at me early with it. That's exactly what he did. I just tried to put a good swing on it, lift the ball and get it into the outfield to at least score the run on a sacrifice fly. It ended up going over (rightfielder's) head. Ever since you're a little kid, these are the moments you dream of. You dream of getting the big hit to win the game. I had eight innings to watch what they guy was throwing. It's not an advantage, but you do see the pitcher's tendencies."
"I told coach Javi (Sanchez) before I got up to bat (in the eighth) that I was going to sit on a slider. (Gray) threw me a first-pitch slider and I didn't swing at it. I was disappointed at myself. Then, he came back with a fast ball on the outside corner when I was down 0-2. I know my hands are fast and I just trusted my hands. I got the barrel to the ball and it went in the gap. We knew (Gray) was going to be tough. You could see why he was the third pick in the draft. It was great to hear my name called in the third round today. After that, I was looking forward to facing Jonathan Gray."
"The leadoff double (in the fifth) is definitely a momentum changer. My goal was not to let that run score. After we made the first out on the bunt, I was looking for the strikeout. Fortunately, I got the chop to second base to end it. Coming into the game, I knew it was going to be a pitchers' duel. All Gray has done this year is outstanding. Our whole team knew it going to be a pitcher's duel. Both of us were going to get deep in the game. We just needed that clutch hit. JaCoby provided that for us and Tyler then came through for us."
LSU will play host to Oklahoma in the second game of the super-regional Saturday at 6 p.m. Ryan Eades (8-1, 2.81) ERA will be the starting pitcher for the Tigers. Dillon Overton (9-2, 2.91 ERA) will be the starting pitcher for the Sooners. Both Eades and Overton were drafted in the second round Thursday night.