LSU baseball team beats Kentucky 11-1

JaCoby Jones and Ty Ross have been near the bottom of the LSU baseball team’s batting order and batting statistics, but both were on top of their game in an 11-1 rout of No. 9 Kentucky on Friday night in Alex Box Stadium.

Jones and Ross were both hitting under .200 entering the game, but Jones had his first three-hit game of the season, including a two-run single during a four-run fifth. Ross had his first multi-hit game since Feb. 22, starting two rallies with singles and also walking.

They led a 14-hit attack as Jones raised his average from .188 to .208, and Ross raised his from .179 to .195.

“Wasn’t that great to see Jones and Ross have good at-bats and get base hits?” coach Paul Mainieri said. “You knew that sooner or later the breaks would go their way.”

The No. 2 Tigers won their 10th straight to match the school-record 28-2 start of the 1986 team and improve to 9-1 in the Southeastern Conference. They can become the first LSU team to go 29-2 when they host the Wildcats (22-7, 6-4) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

LSU, which had a 13-game winning streak earlier in the season, has multiple double-figure winning streaks in the same season for the first time since the 1995 team had 15- and 11-game streaks.

Tigers starter Aaron Nola (5-0) was in control except for some trouble in the fourth and fifth. He allowed just four hits, three walks and one run and struck out seven in seven innings. Will LaMarche pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth.

Nola walked the bases loaded in the fourth, giving him just the second three-walk game in his two seasons at LSU.

That pushed his season total to 10 — three more than he had last season. He gave up the run on two singles and a hit batsmen in the fifth but got out of a first-and-third, one-out jam by getting a double-play grounder to preserve a 1-1 tie.

“Walks bother me the most; they’re more frustrating than hits for me,” Nola said. “But I bounced back and made the right pitches in the right situations.”

LSU bolted from the 1-1 tie in the fifth. Sean McMullen led off by getting hit by a pitch by Kentucky starter A.J. Reed (2-4). Mark Laird tried to sacrifice but forced McMullen at second, and Alex Bregman lined to left.

Raph Rhymes beat out a grounder to third, and Mason Katz walked on four pitches to load the bases. Christian Ibarra hit a slow roller that third baseman Paul McConkey threw past first. Ibarra got an RBI single and went to second as Rhymes scored on the throwing error.

Jones’ two-run single made it 5-1, and he clapped his hands repeatedly as he reached first.

“I was pretty excited,” he said. “You always want to come through for your team with a two-out hit. It feels real good. It’s a confidence booster.”

The Tigers increased the lead to 8-1 in the sixth. Ross led off with a single and, after a flyout, Laird forced Ross at second. Bregman walked, and Rhymes singled him home and went to second on the throw home. Katz followed with a two-run single that made it 8-1.

Jones started a three-run rally in the seventh with a leadoff single. After a balk and a groundout, Ross walked and McMullen hit a sacrifice fly. An error by shortstop Matt Reida allowed Ross to score and kept the inning alive for Bregman, who hit an RBI triple to extend his hitting streak to 18 games and push the lead to 11-1.

“Me and JaCoby feed off each other,” Ross said. “He’s my best friend on the team, and we live with each other. Maybe that has something to do with it. Who knows?”

After Nola struck out the side in the second inning, the third started with McMullen losing McConkey’s fly to straight-away right in the lights as he ran to shallow right-center, but Laird came over from center to make a diving catch.

“I saw Sean lost the ball, then I saw the center fielder diving,” Nola said. “And I thought, ‘My goodness.’

“It was unbelievable how far he came.”