The starting pitching tandem of Aaron Nola and Ryan Eades is a key to LSU’s season.
Coach Paul Mainieri says the Tigers need them to be “co-aces.”
Though Nola is going first in the rotation the first two weeks, that could be reversed later.
Whether it’s Nola-Eades or Eades-Nola won’t matter much if they both pitch the way they did in their season debuts.
Less than 24 hours after Nola threw a two-hit shutout over 6.2 innings to get a win against Maryland, Eades threw a six-hit shutout over 6.1 innings as LSU defeated the Terrapins 5-1 in chilly, windy conditions Saturday afternoon in Alex Box Stadium.
“Those were two pretty good outings,” Mainieri said. “It was definitely a pitcher’s environment these two days and that helped both, but they took advantage of it and we finally scored a few runs.”
Pinch hitter Alex Edward, Ty Ross and Christian Ibarra had consecutive RBI singles as the Tigers scraped together four runs to break a scoreless tie in the seventh.
Senior Kevin Berry, who relieved Eades with two on and one out in the top of the seventh and got two flyouts, got his first victory in nearly two years. Chris Cotton pitched the final two innings, giving up Maryland’s only run in two days, but finishing a win for the second consecutive day.
“I feel like it’s a good quality start for me,” said Eades, who struck out six and walked only the final batter he faced. “Me and Aaron are just going to try and pitch as deep as we can into ball games and save our bullpen. I just wanted to be aggressive and let my defense play behind me. They made some tremendous plays to keep us in the game.
“I think it was a great overall team win. The pitching was good today, the defense was great and the offense came through, and we were able to get the job done.”
Berry got some help escaping the seventh as Mark Laird made two difficult running catches to end the threat — chasing down Matt Bosse’s drive into right-center and snaring Kevin Martir’s fly as he crossed the bullpen mound in right. Laird later made a diving catch of Martir’s sinking liner to end the game.
“Laird made three major league plays,” Mainieri said.
Maryland starter Brady Kirkpatrick matched Eades for six innings, then ran into trouble with out in the seventh as he walked Mason Katz and JaCoby Jones with one out.
Terrapins coach John Szefc brought in left-hander Ben Brewster to face left-handed designated hitter Tyler Moore, but Mainieri countered with the right-handed Edward.
On a full count, Mainieri started the runners. Edward bounced the ball into right field, driving home Katz with the game’s first run.
“Coach started the runners and that opened up a hole,” Edward said. “I was fortunate enough to hit a hard ground ball, and it found a hole.”
Ross singled home Jones, and Ibarra singled home pinch runner Jared Foster. Ross took third when right fielder Jordan Hagel mishandled Ibarra’s hit and Ross scored on a passed ball by Martir.
Blake Schmit led off with a single against Cotton in the eighth, advanced on Charlie White’s bunt and ended Maryland’s scoring drought when Hagel singled him home.
The Tigers answered in the bottom half when Kevin Mooney hit Raph Rhymes with a pitch leading off, Jones advanced him with a grounder and Sean McMullen brought him home with a single.
Eades nearly matched Nola’s performance, putting the Tigers in position to sweep at noon Sunday.
“Eades’ velocity was good, and when he’s down in the strike zone with that fastball in the mid-90s, it’s a tough pitch to hit,” Mainieri said. “When he gets his breaking ball over he’s that much better.”
Katz said as good as Nola and Eades are individually, they’re even tougher back-to-back.
“Nola can come sidearm and throw hard, and Eades throws over the top,” he said. “It’s different arm action, different pitchers. That’s a tough combination for any team to face.”