Last Modified: Friday, May 03, 2013 10:25 PM
BATON ROUGE — LSU’s Aaron Nola is tough enough under ideal conditions.
Friday night it almost seemed unfair to the Florida Gators.
Unseasonably cool temperatures with a blue norther howling in from left field combined with a typical Nola outing were way too much for Florida as third-ranked LSU breezed to a 5-0 victory to clinch the Southeastern Conference series.
“It was cold and bitter for our hitters, too,” said Paul Mainieri, who got his 300th win as LSU’s head coach with hardly a glance at the bullpen. “But Aaron was just phenomenal again tonight. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
The Tigers (42-6, 18-5 SEC) will go for the series sweep at noon today with Ryan Eades (7-2, 2.30) on the mound. Florida (25-22, 12-11) had not decided on its pitcher.
Nola improved to 9-0 with his fourth consecutive complete game and the second shutout in his last three starts. He is the first LSU pitcher with four straight complete games since Mike Sirotka in 1993.
“I hadn’t pitched in the cold in a while,” Nola said. “It was definitely chilly tonight. But my stamina is up now and I feel good where I can get deep into game let my defense help me.”
Nola leads the SEC in strikeouts, but didn’t get one until the seventh inning and finished with three.
“That was a good thing,” Mainieri said. “With the cold and the way the wind was blowing in, there was no way they were going to hit balls in the gaps. And it kept his pitch count down.”
Nola needed 108 pitches to finish the night scattering four hits.
“I didn’t feel like I had all my pitches,” he said. “My fastball command was there, but my curveball and changeup were kind of flat.”
LSU had nine hits but had to scratch and claw for all of its runs.
“It wasn’t like we were hitting it all over the park,” Mainieri said. “It was tough.”
But Mainieri said he was particularly proud of the two spots the Tigers put up in the fifth and eighth innings, mostly on hustle.
They got the only run Nola needed on an RBI groundout in the second by JaCoby Jones.
Jones opened the fifth with a single and Jared Foster beat out a bunt for a single while trying to sacrifice him. Sean McMullen doubled in Jones and Foster scored on Mark Laird’s groundout.
In the eighth, the Tigers speedy Andrew Stephenson got two RBIs on what appeared to be routine bases-loaded ground ball. But he beat the throw from shortstop to score Jones from third, and even slow-footed Ty Ross crossed the plate when he never slowed down rounding third.
Nola had a few anxious moments.
Florida had runners at second and third with one out in the third, but Nola got a lineout to short and a weak ground ball to the mound the end the threat.
The Gators got their first two runners aboard in the seventh, but Alex Bregman made a diving catch on a line drive and threw back to second to double off Justin Shafer.
“I caught him leaning (toward third) out of the corner of my eye,” Bregman said.