Aaron Nola’s first thought: Am I in trouble?
LSU coach Paul Mainieri buzzed the phone of his ace pitcher a few times Thursday night, instilling a bit of fear in Nola.
What was up?
“He told me he was waiting by my truck,” Nola said. “I didn’t know if I was in trouble or not.”
No trouble here.
Nola threw a two-hit eight-inning gem, Alex Bregman continued to break out of his hitting slump and LSU beat Mississippi State 3-0 on Friday night at Alex Box Stadium.
It was an impromptu start for Nola. The pitcher learned of it in that Thursday night conversation with his coach.
Mainieri had planned to start Nola on Saturday to give him the usual six days of rest between starts. Nola pitched last Saturday at Florida.
The coach changed his mind late Thursday night because of a rainy weekend forecast.
“A local weather man … he sent me a text message, and he said, ‘You’re going to be able to get (Friday) night in, but Saturday and Sunday would be questionable,’” Mainieri said. “I started thinking about it and saying to myself, ‘What if we only play one game, get beat and never pitch Nola?’ ”
The teams are not planning a doubleheader Saturday despite a high chance of rain Sunday. Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. first pitch is being televised on ESPNU.
Nola no-hit the Bulldogs through five innings, and the Tigers had back-to-back triples in a two-run third inning to win the series opener against their Southeastern Conference rival.
LSU (22-8-1, 4-5-1) won its first league game in the past five tries, shaking off an ugly sweep at Florida last weekend with a resounding victory in front of 6,712 fans.
It was the team’s 10th shutout, tying a school record.
Nola (6-1) struck out 10 and faced the minimum in four of his eight innings, shutting down a Mississippi State squad that had won seven of its past nine games and sat atop the SEC West. Joe Broussard got his sixth save, retiring the side in the ninth.
Nola struck out five of his first 11 batters. He twice struck out a batter with two on to end the frame. In the third inning, he stranded a runner on third base by striking out the final two.
“It’s an honor to play behind him,” Bregman said. “Everybody on our team and everybody watching LSU baseball is witnessing greatness.”
Bregman had singles on his first two at-bats and drove in a run, and Sean McMullen went 2-for-2 and drove in a run.
McMullen and Mark Laird began the third inning with back-to-back first-pitch triples against State starter Trevor Fitts. State coach John Cohen called on Fitts instead of Ross Mitchell, the Bulldogs’ No. 1 pitcher who is now scheduled to start against freshman Jared Poché in Saturday’s game.
McMullen’s inning-opening triple in the third soared over the center fielder’s head to the wall, and Laird followed on the next pitch with a scorching liner down the right-field line. Both slid into third base.
“It really lit a fire for our team tonight,” Bregman said.
“Those back-to-back triples were a thing of beauty,” Mainieri said.
Bregman followed with his single through the second and third hole, scoring Laird to make it 2-0. It was his third hit in four at-bats, a streak that followed the worst hitting slump of his career.
He was 4 for his last 41 entering the game against McNeese State on Wednesday, an 11-game skid that looks to be coming to an end. He hit a three-run homer Wednesday in a win against McNeese.
“It’s all because of my teammates,” Bregman said. “They were on base. I’m just trying to put together quality at-bats for this team.”
Bregman had his first two-hit game since March 9 against Purdue. Bregman went 0-for-12 at Florida last weekend in the Gators’ sweep. He was 0-for-17 before that homer against McNeese.
Meanwhile, Nola is staying out of trouble. He rarely gets into it on the field, including on Friday on five days’ rest.
No trouble there, apparently.
“I felt ready. Right when (Mainieri) said that, I told him, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to go,’ ” Nola said of that Thursday night conversation. “It’s really not that big of a deal for me.”
Former LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr. threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Former quarterback Zach Mettenberger and receiver Jarvis Landry will throw out the first pitches Saturday and Sunday. … Kade Scivicque, who went 0-for-4, started at first base for the first time since Feb. 22 against Toledo. Scivicque normally bats DH or catches, but Mainieri is jostling his lineup. The trickle-down effect Friday was Scivicque playing first. … Chris Sciambra started in left field, his first start since a March 14 at Vanderbilt and just his seventh start of the season. He went 0-for-4.