LSU sophomore right-hander Aaron Nola (9-0) registered his fourth-straight complete game with a four-hitter as the third-ranked Tigers (42-6/18-5 SEC) defeated Florida (25-22/12-11 SEC), 5-0, on Friday night at Alex Box Stadium. The victory clinched the weekend series for the Western Division leaders, while the finale will be televised on ESPN2 tomorrow at 1 p.m. Nola permitted four singles in going the distance, with three strikeouts and one walk.
Junior JaCoby Jones (2-for-4) provided the Tigers with a 1-0 lead in the second inning against UF sophomore left-hander Bobby Poyner (Wellington, Fla.) (2-2) on an RBI grounder. Senior Raph Rhymes (2-for-3) had opened the frame with a single into left field and junior Christian Ibarra was hit by a pitch before junior Ty Ross moved his teammates over with a sacrifice bunt. Jones brought home Rhymes with a ground ball to second base to open the scoring.
The Gators put their first two runners aboard against Nola in the third inning, as sophomore Josh Tobias(Greensboro, N.C.) was hit by a pitch and freshman Harrison Bader (Bronxville, N.Y.) reached on an infield single. Although Tobias was erased at third base on a sacrifice bunt attempt by senior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.), Florida executed a double steal, with Bader taking third and Dent swiping second base. Nola stranded the runners by having freshman Richie Martin (Brandon, Fla.) line out to shortstop and sophomoreCasey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) hit a comebacker to the mound that Nola threw to first to complete the inning.
Poyner delivered an eight-pitch inning in the fourth and Nola responded by setting the Gators down in order in the fifth inning. LSU extended its lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the stanza with two runs on four hits. Jones led off with a single up the middle and sophomore Jared Foster beat out a bunt single before junior Sean McMullen roped an opposite-field double to bring home Jones. Freshman Mark Laird followed with an RBI grounder to second base that plated Foster for a 4-0 margin. Redshirt freshman Aaron Rhodes (Venice, Fla.) took over for Poyner (4.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R) and yielded a single to freshman Alex Bregman that left the Tigers with runners on the corners with one down. The righty escaped further trouble by having the SEC’s RBI leader, senior Mason Katz, line into an inning-ending 4-3 double play.
Sophomore Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) opened the seventh with a base-hit up the middle and redshirt sophomore Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.) followed with a single to shortstop. However, Nola had senior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) line into a 6-4 double play and then struck out Tobias to snuff out a potential Gator rally.
Rhodes worked 1.2 scoreless innings, allowing two hits, before freshman Parker Danciu (Delray Beach, Fla.) took the mound prior to the Tigers’ seventh at bat. The southpaw retired both batters he faced and gave way to freshman Mike Vinson (Miami, Fla.) (1.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R).
LSU tacked on two more runs in the eighth to finalize the 5-0 margin. Rhymes started things off with a double into left center and Ibarra reached on an error by Tobias. A fielder’s choice by Ross forced Rhymes at third base for the first out and an infield single by Jones loaded the bases full of Tigers. Freshman Andrew Stevenson then drove in a pair of runs with a single.