LSU ace Nola subdues Arkansas

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, May 23, 2014
LSU pitcher Aaron Nola throws a pitch during a SEC Tournament game against Arkansas on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala.
Photo by Michael Woods
LSU pitcher Aaron Nola throws a pitch during a SEC Tournament game against Arkansas on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala.

HOOVER, Ala. -- Arkansas had its shot against Aaron Nola in the first inning.

The Razorbacks scored a run against LSU's All-American pitcher with singles by Clark Eagan and Brian Anderson and a throwing error by catch Tyler Moore in Thursday night's SEC Tournament game, then loaded the bases with two walks.

Today’s game


WHEN 3 p.m. Central

WHERE Hoover (Ala.) Metropolitan Stadium.

RADIO Razorbacks Sports Network statewide network. Not all games will be carried by all affiliates. Check local listings. TV Cox Sports TV in Northwest Arkansas, Comcast Sports in central Arkansas.


TODAY’S GAMES Ole Miss vs. Arkansas, 3 p.m. Florida vs. TBA, 6:30 p.m.

"If you get a chance, you've to get him right out of the chute," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "We just didn't get the hit we needed, but he's tough.

"Nola knows how to pitch when he's in trouble. That's the key to any great pitcher."

Nola got Bobby Wernes on a groundout to end the inning and start a string of 14 consecutive retired batters as LSU won 7-2 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

"I got behind in the count and they were finding some holes," said Nola, a junior from Baton Rouge Catholic. "After that we got it going offensively and I improved."

LSU (42-14-1) advanced to Saturday's semifinals. Arkansas (37-22) will play Ole Miss at 3 p.m. today in an elimination game.

Nola (10-1) went 7 1/3 innings and held the Razorbacks to 4 hits, 2 runs and 3 walks with 7 strikeouts. He has a 29-6 career record for the Tigers.

"This game to me shows his true greatness," LSU Coach Paul Mainieri said. "He's had other games where he dominated from start to finish, but when he gets in jams, he just has that innate ability to raise his game to another level.

"That's really what he did in the first inning to keep us in the game. Then he started to dominate. He found a good rhythm and made good pitches."

Moore hit a two-out home run off Arkansas starter Colin Poche (3-1) to tie it 1-1 in the second inning.

The Tigers went ahead 3-1 in the third inning -- and chased Poche out of the game -- on a double by Alex Bergman and singles by Chris Chines and Sean McMullen.

LSU increased its lead on Moore's RBI double in the sixth inning and added a run in the seventh and two in the eighth to make it 7-1.

Arkansas used midweek pitchers against the Tigers' ace.

Arkansas went with its two healthy SEC starters -- Trey Killian and Chris Oliver in victories over Texas A&M and Ole Miss to open the SEC Tournament -- but the Hogs' third weekend starter, Jalen Beeks, continues to be sidelined as he recovers from a sore elbow.

Landon Simpson and Alex Phillips pitched for the Razorbacks after Poche.

"We had midweek guys, and bullpen guys, and we hung in there," Van Horn said. "But it wasn't pretty."

LSU had 12 hits and scored five runs with two-out hits.

"We take pride in being clutch at the plate," Moore said.

The Tigers have combined for 75 runs and 88 hits in their past six games, including an 11-1 victory over Vanderbilt in their SEC Tournament opener.

"They're confident," Van Horn said. "They're feeling it right now."

Arkansas loaded the bases against Nola against in the eighth inning, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Brian Anderson off of LSU reliever Nate Fury.

Razorbacks freshman center fielder Andrew Benintendi went 2 for 4 against Nola, but was full of praise for him.

"He's got a great fastball, changeup and slider, and he commands all three," Benintendi said. "He can throw strikes at any time."

Moore said it's fun to catch Nola because he constantly has the hitters guessing.

"The hitter is always off balance and doesn't know what's coming in," Moore said. "When my hands go down for the sign, Aaron is going to throw that pitch with conviction."

Nola is 4-0 and has a 2.21 earned run average in five career starts against Arkansas with 47 strikeouts while allowing 17 hits and 8 walks in 36 2/3 innings.

"He's awfully, awfully good," Van Horn said. "I'll be glad when he's out of the league."

Mainineri said Nola is "one of the all-time greats" to play at LSU.

"It's not just that he has great stuff, great talent," Mainieri said. "In Louisiana we have term -- lagniappe. That's a little something extra, and he's got that.

"I've really run out of things to say about Aaron. It seems like every time he pitches, he outdoes himself."

Sports on 05/23/2014