LSU baseball notebook: Aaron Nola aims for another complete effort

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU pitcher Aaron Nola pitches against South Carolina on April 26.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU pitcher Aaron Nola pitches against South Carolina on April 26.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — It wasn’t that long ago that LSU sophomore right-hander Aaron Nola hadn’t thrown a complete game. Now it has become a weekly expectation for him.

He threw his first career complete game against Arkansas on April 12. He has duplicated that feat in his three starts since, beating Alabama, South Carolina and Florida in succession to improve to 9-0.

“Ever since that first one, I know I can go out there and go deep in the game every single game and pitch that nine innings,” said Nola, who is in line to go for his fifth consecutive complete game against Texas A&M on Friday night. “I’m expecting to go nine (Friday), just like every outing. But if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.

“I’m just going to put my team in the best position to win the game.”

The Tigers have won all 12 games that Nola has started this season. His ERA is 1.92, and he leads the Southeastern Conference with 93 strikeouts.

Although Nola has been efficient with his pitches, averaging about 110 during the complete-game streak, coach Paul Mainieri said he would like to pull Nola before he throws that many if the game situation warrants it, either against the Aggies or at home against Ole Miss next weekend.

Mainieri said he won’t pull Nola if he’s pitching well in a tight game, but if the Tigers have a comfortable lead, it would afford Mainieri an opportunity to get Nola a breather with the SEC and NCAA tournaments looming.

Seniors’ last on-campus trip

The Tigers seniors are paying their final visit to an opponent’s home field as they visit Blue Bell Park for the first time.

“It’s a special weekend,” senior outfielder Raph Rhymes said. “It’s my last SEC road trip with these guys as an LSU Tiger. I’m excited. We get to play a good opponent go on the road and have some fun. Road trips are always fun. I’ll enjoy this one.”

Rhymes said he was eager to experience a new venue.

“I always like going to new places,” he said. “I think we all like traveling. It’s always a good time, and you get some good team chemistry going.”

Graduation looming

The graduating seniors won’t be able to take part in the official university graduation ceremony next Friday because they’ll be getting ready to play Ole Miss. But they’ll have their own presentation of diplomas in the Champions Club at Alex Box Stadium — just as last year’s seniors received their diplomas in Columbia, S.C., where they were finishing the regular season against South Carolina.

Those scheduled to get their degrees are Rhymes, first baseman Mason Katz, pitchers Kevin Berry and Joey Bourgeois, undergraduate assistant coach Blake Dean, equipment manager and former player Matt Fury and Jordy Snikeris, a reserve catcher on last year’s team.

Steals not major concern

The Aggies are limited offensively, but they’re capable of manufacturing runs. They came into Thursday night’s game ranked second in SEC play with 28 stolen bases.

“I’m glad we have Ty Ross catching for us,” said Mainieri, who has said he thinks Ross is the best defensive catcher in the country.

Mainieri said that even though the Tigers pitchers want to “take (base stealing) out of the game a little bit,” he also wanted to guard against too much emphasis on one aspect.

He quoted a comment that Hall of Fame right-hander Robin Roberts once offered. Roberts said he was never particularly good at holding base-runners on first, and one game his catcher went out to the mound to remind to him to hold Jackie Robinson on.

“His response to his catcher was, ‘Just because he steals second doesn’t mean he’s going to score,’ ” Mainieri recalled. “I’ve always remembered that. The idea is to keep them from scoring.

“Even if they steal second, they still need a base hit.”