LSU pitcher Aaron Nola’s season might be over, but the ace is still in the running for one of college baseball’s biggest awards.
Nola is one of three finalists for USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation’s top amateur baseball player.
He joins Kentucky pitcher/infielder A.J. Reed and Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto as finalists for the award, which will be presented July 17 in Los Angeles.
The three received the most votes among 21 semifinalists from a more than 200-person committee.
Nola, expected to forgo his senior season and make the leap to the pros, finished his junior season with an 11-1 record and 1.47 ERA. He struck out 134 and walked 27 in 116.1 innings.
He watched Monday’s 12-2 season-ending loss to Houston from the dugout, unable to help.
“It’s going to be hard to get over,” Nola said. “Last game in the uniform. You’ve got to look to the future.”
He has stiff competition for the honor.
Reed was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. He leads the nation in home runs and slugging percentage and led the SEC in pitching victories in the regular season.
Conforto, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, batted .348 this season and led the conference in runs scored. He drew 50 walks, the most in school history.
As well as the committee, fans can vote for the 2014 award by visiting GoldenSpikesAward.com and selecting their favorite finalist. Voting for fans and the voting body ends at 4 p.m. June 13.
All three players are expected to be selected in the Major League Baseball draft Thursday-Saturday. Nola is projected by some as a top-10 pick.
Nate Fury entered Monday’s game against Houston with LSU down 8-2.
He knew what he had to do.
“If we were going to come back,” he said, “I was going to have to put up zeroes.”
The one bright spot from Monday’s season-ending loss to Houston in the Baton Rouge regional was the 5-foot-11 senior.
He gave up just three hits and struck out three in 4.1 innings — the longest stay, by far, of any of LSU’s six pitchers used in the 12-2 defeat to the Cougars.
Fury exited the game in the seventh inning to a standing ovation from the Alex Box Stadium crowd.
“I didn’t want to come out of the game, but I wanted to keep going,” Fury said. “I wanted to pitch all night, stay out there on the mound.”
Shortstop Alex Bregman ended the 2014 season on a tear.
Bregman, who endured a midseason hitting slump, batted .451 over LSU’s last 12 games. He had 23 hits and 16 RBIs over the stretch.
Bregman spent much of the year with an average below .300. The late-season streak assured his numbers wouldn’t end that way.
He finished the year batting .316, second on the team to Andrew Stevenson (.335).