BATON ROUGE, La. -- A strong pitching performance from Aaron Nola and 10 consecutive two-out runs over the fifth, sixth and seventh innings broke open a 1-1 game and led No. 2 LSU to an 11-1 series-opening win over No. 7 Kentucky, in front of 10,886 on a gorgeous Friday night at Alex Box Stadium.
Kentucky (22-7, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) got to Nola in the top of the fifth inning, breaking up his no-hitter with a one-run rally to tie the game at 1-1. LSU took advantage of a leadoff hit batter, a walk and a two-base error, plating four two-out runs in the bottom of the fifth, later getting three two-out runs in the sixth inning and three two-out runs in the seventh.
LSU (28-3, 9-1 SEC) got a dominating pitching performance from Aaron Nola (5-0), who carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and did not allow a hit till Matt Reida singled with one out as the No. 8 hitter the second time through the UK order. Nola worked seven innings, allowing just four UK hits and one run, walking three and striking out seven. He got strong defense from his club throughout the game, starting with Mark Laird’s rob of an A.J. Reed home run in right-centerfield in the first inning.
Reed (2-4) suffered the loss in five innings pitched, allowing eight hits and five runs – four earned – walking two and striking out three. Freshman Dylan Dwyer came on in the sixth with UK trying to save its bullpen for Saturday and Sunday. The lefty worked 1.2 innings, allowing five hits and six runs – four earned – walking two. Freshman righty Zach Strecker worked 1.1 shutout innings, allowing a hit and striking out a career-high three.
The Wildcats got hits from Cousino, Reida, Jeff Boehm, Micheal Thomas and Max Kuhn, with Cousino driving in UK’s run of the game.
After Nola exited with an 11-1 lead in the eighth, LSU turned to Will LaMarche, who tossed two shutout frames to finish the game.
The series will resume on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Alex Box Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. UK will send senior lefty Jerad Grundy (5-2, 2.15 ERA) to the mound to face LSU star junior right-hander Ryan Eades (6-0, 1.35 ERA).
The Tigers, off to their best start to a season since 1986, got on the board in the bottom of the third inning, as Ty Ross singled through the right side to leadoff and Sean McMullen singled to centerfield to follow. After Mark Laird moved the pair into scoring position with a well-placed groundout, Alex Bergman – the SEC’s leading hitter – hung a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Ross.
UK answered to even up the game in the top of the fifth, as Reida singled with one out to break up Nola’s no-hit bid. After Thomas was hit by a pitch, Cousino scored Reida with a single into right-centerfield.
LSU answered immediately to take a 3-1 lead, as McMullen was hit to leadoff the inning, with Laird replacing him at first on a bunt. After a lineout to leftfield, Raph Rhymes singled off the diving glove of Paul McConkey at third base. UK then walked NCAA RBI leader Mason Katz to load the bases to bring up Christian Ibarra. Reed got Ibarra to ground a slow roller down the third base line, with McMullen scoring on the hit and Rhymes coming home to score after a misfire on the throw to first base. JaCoby Jones then smacked a 2-2 pitch from Reed for a two-RBI single through the left side.
The Tigers added to their lead in the sixth inning, as Ross singled to leadoff, getting replaced on a fielder’s choice at first base by Laird. After a Bergman walk, Dwyer got Rhymes to hit a comebacker to the mound with two outs but after Dwyer fielded the ball it was called a balk by the second base umpire. Rhymes then singled to score one run and Katz followed with a two-RBI single.
LSU got more in the seventh, as Jones singled to leadoff and after a balk and a grounder back to the pitcher, scored on a sacrifice fly to rightfield. Laird then reached on a fielding error up the middle, allowing one run to score. Bergman then doubled to score another run and make it 11-1 LSU.
GAME NOTES: Junior second baseman J.T. Riddle made his team-leading 95th consecutive start … Zac Zellers laid down his fourth sac bunt of the year in the fourth inning … Austin Cousino stole his ninth base of the year in the fourth … Riddle stole his fifth base of the year in the fourth … Riddle has now reached base safely in 15 consecutive games … Micheal Thomas was hit by his 13th pitch of the year … Thomas had a two-strike hit (eighth of 2013) and a two-out hit (third) in the seventh inning … Zac Zellers was hit by his seventh pitch in the seventh inning … Freshman Casey Schroeder made his SEC debut … Zach Arnold made his SEC debut … Kentucky drops to 3-3 in its all gray uniform combination … UK is now 5-5 when its opponent scores first … UK is 3-4 in night games in 2013 and 5-3 on Friday’s … UK falls to 3-2 against top-25 teams and 1-1 vs. top-10 foes … LSU extended its lead in the series to 44-25-1, including a 24-7-1 mark all-time in Baton Rouge.