Aaron Nola picked up his third consecutive complete-game victory and Sean McMullen drove in three runs as LSU defeated South Carolina 5-2 at The Box on Friday night.
HOW THEY SCORED
LSU second inning - With two out, Ty Ross and JaCoby Jones walked. A single by Jared Foster loaded the bases. McMullen singled home both Ross and Jones. LSU 2, SOUTH CAROLINA 0
LSU fourth inning - Singles by Ross, Jones and Foster loaded the bases. McMullen's sacrifice fly to centerfield brought home Ross. LSU 3, SOUTH CAROLINA 0
South Carolina fifth inning - With two out, Connor Bright singled. Bright scored on a triple by Tanner English. LSU 3, SOUTH CAROLINA 1
LSU sixth inning - With two out, McMullen was hit by a pitch and moved to third on a single by Mark Laird. Alex Bregman singled home McMullen. LSU 4, SOUTH CAROLINA 1
LSU seventh inning - Rhymes reached second base on a throwing error by third baseman Chase Vergason. Christian Ibarra bunted Rhymes to third. Ross singled home Rhymes. LSU 5, SOUTH CAROLINA 1
South Carolina ninth inning - Joey Pankake hit a leadoff home run over the leftfield fence. LSU 5, SOUTH CAROLINA 2
LSU WASTED SCORING CHANCES
First inning - McMullen doubled and moved to third on Laird's ground out to second base. McMullen was stranded at third as Bregman struck out and Mason Katz lined out to rightfield.
LSU HITTING STAR
McMullen accounted for four of LSU's five runs with three RBIs and one run scored. McMullen, who had a first-inning double, gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead with a two-out, two-run single in the second. He increased LSU's advantage to 3-0 with a sacrifice fly in the fourth. In the sixth, McMullen was hit by a pitch and came around to score on singles by Laird and Bregman. McMullen has now hit safely in five games in a row. He is 8-for-24 (.333) during the hitting streak.
LSU STARTING PITCHER
For the first time in eight seasons, a LSU pitcher threw three straight complete games. Nola had gone the distance in his last two starts against Arkansas and Alabama. Nola, who won his eighth game - one more than his total last season, has allowed four runs in the past three weeks. Greg Smith was the last Tigers hurler to throw three consecutive complete games. Nola allowed six hits, walked none and struck out eight. A mental mistake by Laird in centerfield allowed South Carolina to score its first run. Laird dove for a ball with a runner on first base and two out in the fifth. The other Gamecocks run came on a leadoff homer by Pankake in the ninth. Nola retired the first ten South Carolina hitters and then ten of the last 11 Gamecocks batters. He retired Max Schrock on infield ground balls with two runners on base and two out in the fourth and sixth innings.
Jones, who was benched in the middle of Sunday's game at Alabama and didn't start Wednesday's game against Tulane, was back in lineup Friday. Foster made just his fourth start of the season in rightfield. Foster had two singles for his first multiple-hit game since March 6 against Sacred Heart. . .The bottom three hitters in the Tigers lineup - Ross, Jones and Foster - reached base a combined eight times. Both Ross and Jones had two singles and a walk, while Foster had his two singles. . . Katz and Rhymes were a combined 0-for-7. Katz is 5-for-34 since the Southern game on April 10. . .Ibarra, who went 0-for-2, had his hitting streak end at six games. . .South Carolina starting pitcher Nolan Belcher gave up four runs and seven hits in 5.2 innings. Belcher walked four batters. He had walked five in 74 innings prior to the game. . .LSU was 5-for-13 with runners in scoring position. . .Nola has not allowed more than two runs in any of his last six Southeastern Conference starts. . .The Tigers are 39-4 overall, 16-3 in the SEC. LSU remained one game behind Vanderbilt in the overall SEC standings. The Commodores defeated Mississippi State 3-1 on Friday. The Tigers remained four games ahead of Arkansas in the SEC West. . . South Carolina is 31-12 overall, 11-8 in the SEC. . .The actual crowd was 9,006.
FROM THE LOCKER ROOM
Coach Paul Mainieri:
(on Aaron Nola's performance): "Not only does Nola have terrific stuff, but he does it in such an efficient way. He throws strikes and they are good strikes. He goes in an out and he elevates (pitches) when he needs to. He makes the hitters chase his pitch. His endurance is better than last year. That's three straight nine-inning games and they are not against lousy ball clubs. He should have had a shutout until the home run in the ninth. We should have told the outfield not to try to make a diving catch with two out. Nola was just fantastic."
(on the depth of the lineup): "If we don't get anything from our four, five and six hitters (0-for-9) and we are still able to score five runs, that tells you something about our lineup. No one is going to get two or three hits every night. But, if you have a solid lineup throughout, guys can take turns. McMullen had three unbelievable at-bats. Then, the guys at the bottom of the order came through."
(on Tanner English getting thrown out at the plate on an attempted inside-the-park home run): "That was a key play in the game. First, Rhymes hustles after the ball (gets by Laird). Bregman makes a great relay throw. Then, what a play Ross made. He catches a short hop with a catcher's mitt, blocks the plate and makes the tag. If he's safe, the score is 3-2."
(general comment): "Aaron is pitching awesome. There is not more you can say. As far as my hitting, I am seeing the ball good right now. If you can't see it, you can't hit it. My biggest at-bat was the two-out walk in the second. That got (Belcher) into the stretch.
(on tag play at the plate): "When Bregman got the ball, I thought we had a chance. I just hung in there on the throw. (Assistant coach) Javi Sanchez has me practicing catching short hops all the time. He throws short hops to me."
"I just go out there every inning and compete. I try to get the batter out with as few pitches as I can. I don't try to strike out everybody. I try to get them out in four pitches or less. We have such a good defense. I want them to hit the ball. Our defense was unbelievable tonight. My stuff tonight was better than the past two weekends. I had better command of my curve ball and I had a good change up. I missed my spot on the home run in the ninth. But, that was just one pitch. I came back and got the other three guys out."
"We have a lot of confidence in ourselves and each other. We all try not to do too much. It's good to know if (Rhymes and Katz) go 0-for-7, there are seven other guys in the lineup who can drive in runs. I felt comfortable at the plate tonight."
LSU will play host to South Carolina at The Box on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Ryan Eades (7-1, 2.56 ERA) will be the Tigers' starting pitcher.