Last Modified: Saturday, April 06, 2013 2:06 PM
BATON ROUGE — Aaron Nola gave LSU his usual seven strong innings while second baseman JaCoby Jones and catcher Ty Ross broke out of prolonged slumps as the No. 2-ranked Tigers opened the weekend’s Southeastern Conference series with an 11-1 thrasing of No. 8 Kentucky.
“That was great to see,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “But the score wasn’t indicative of how tough that game was. And it’s only one.”
Nola (5-0) could have gone longer but left after seven with the game safely in hand, having given up four hits while striking out seven.
Both Jones and Ross, whose gloves are too good to bench, came in hitting under .200. But Jones broke loose with a 3-for-5 night, including a key two-run single in the fifth, while Ross was 2-for-3 and scored twice.
“Wasn’t that great?” Mainieri said. “Those guys are both proven college players at the highest level. They haven’t gotten down on themselves. It was only a matter of time. But it was nice to see.
“And we’re going to need them (both right-handed batters) the rest of the weekend against all these left-handers Kentucky throws.”
By the end, though, all the Tigers were swinging well as LSU had 14 hits while tying the 1986 team for the best start in school history.
This year’s LSU team (28-2, 9-1 SEC) can have the record to itself with a win in tonight’s game. The Tigers will send right-hander Ryan Eades (6-0, 1.35 ERA) against lef-thander Jerad Grundy (5-2, 2.15).
LSU turned two timely double plays and center fielder Mark Laird made two plays for the all-time highlight reel.
“I thought I’d never see a catch like that one he made in the first inning,” Mainieri said of the snag Laird made as he ran into the left-centerfield wall. “But then that next one (in the third) … oh, my gosh. Was that the most amazing play you’ve ever seen?”
It looked like a routine fly to right, until right fielder Sean McMullen hollered that he couldn’t find it, with the speedy Laird running all the way from straightaway center to make the diving catch.
“That was one of the most phenomenal plays I’ve ever seen,” Mainieri said.
Alex Bregman got LSU’s first run in with a sacrifice fly in the third and extended his hitting to streak to 18 games with an RBI triple in the seventh.
After Kentucky tied the score 1-1 in the top of the fifth, the Tigers scored 10 runs over the next three innings, all but one of them coming with two outs.
Two runs scored in the four-run fifth on Christian Ibarra’s two-out dribbler down the third-base line, which was ruled a hit but got an extra run home on a wild throw to first to put LSU up 3-1.
It also left runners at second and third for Jones, who lined a sharp two-run single into left to cap the inning with LSU up 5-1.
The Tigers got three more in sixth on Raph Rymes’ RBI and a two-run single by Mason Katz and added three unearned runs in the seventh.