Aaron Nola was perfect for six innings and far from perfect after that, but he was plenty good enough to lead LSU to a 9-4 victory against Washington on Friday night in Alex Box Stadium.
Nola (2-0) gave up five hits and four runs before being relieved with one out in the seventh, but the bullpen never let the Huskies catch up to the Tigers, who had staked Nola to a 6-0 lead.
Nick Rumbelow pitched a perfect 1.2 innings, getting his first two hitters to strand the tying runs, then retiring the side in order in the eighth. Washington loaded the bases with none out against Kevin Berry in the ninth, but Chris Cotton got the next three hitters for his fourth save.
Christian Ibarra led the Tigers attack with a two-run double and an RBI single, Raph Rhymes had three hits and two RBIs and Alex Bregman had three hits.
Two Washington errors led to five unearned runs.
“Obviously Nola was phenomenal for six innings,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I don’t know if he hit a wall or they just started having great at-bats against him. I was proud of the poise we showed once they came back and made it close.”
LSU — 13-1 overall after winning its eighth straight game — will meet Washington (4-9) again at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Nola had six strikeouts through six, but looked like a different pitcher in the seventh. Jayce Ray ended the perfect game by lining a soft single to left leading off. Joe Meggs followed with a single to center, and Nola hit Robert Pehl, loading the bases.
Trevor Mitsui singled home two runs, ending Nola’s 16-inning scoreless streak and a 33.2-inning scoreless streak by the Tigers’ weekend starters.
Michael Camporeale singled home another run before Nola got the first out on the hardest-hit ball off him all night — Will Sparks’ drive that Mark Laird caught up to just in front of the warning track in center. Andrew Ely’s RBI single cut the lead to 6-4 and finished Nola.
“It happened so quick — five hits, four runs,” Nola said, “but luckily, our offense tacked on a lot of runs tonight. If I give up a hit, I try and throw a one-hitter. I try not to give up any more, but unfortunately, (Washington) found a lot of holes.”
Rumbelow came in and struck out Ryan Wiggins and got pinch hitter Brian Wolfe on a pop to center.
“(Nola) pitched phenomenal, didn’t he?” Rumbelow said. “The momentum kind of changed in that seventh inning. I just had to go in there and make some pitches. We have a great defense, so I didn’t have to do too much.”
LSU increased the lead to 7-4 on Ibarra’s RBI single in the bottom half.
In the eighth, one run scored when Pehl misplayed Laird’s grounder to second, and another scored on Rhymes’ RBI single.
The Tigers scored two in the third on RBI singles by Laird and Rhymes, who earlier extended his hit streak to 12 games. Ty Ross’ sacrifice fly made it 3-0 in the fourth.
LSU added three unearned runs in the fifth as Mitsui made and error at first and Ibarra, who was batting sixth after hitting ninth most of the season, doubled home two.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re batting at the top or the bottom of the order,” Ibarra said. “You’ve got to be able to drive runs in, one through nine.”