Aces Beede, Nola meet when LSU visits Vanderbilt

While on his phone last week, Tyler Beede scrolled through Instagram, the photo-sharing, social networking service.

A photo popped up of his brother, Kyle, standing next to a tall, lanky guy with frizzy hair and a big smile.

It was Aaron Nola, LSU’s ace pitcher.

Beede, the No. 1 pitcher at Vanderbilt, thought this an opportune time to text Nola.

“I was making sure,” Beede said, “Kyle wasn’t being too big of a fan.”

Beede and Nola — somewhat new friends who stay connected — will meet for the first time Friday night in Nashville, Tenn.

It’s not just any game.

Two of the nation’s best pitchers clash in a showdown between consensus top-10 teams — LSU (16-2) and Vanderbilt (16-2) — to open the 2014 Southeastern Conference season.

How good is this pitching duel?

Baseball America ranks Beede and Nola as No. 4 and No. 5 among 2014 college pitching prospects. They’re the top two in the league, according to the site.

Together this season, they’ve struck out 69, walked seven and have allowed three earned runs.

“Both of them have stuff that’s at the top end of pitchers in college baseball,” LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn said.

Dunn compares the pitching matchup to last season’s meeting between Nola and Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray in the first game of the NCAA Baton Rouge Super Regional.

It’s that big.

More than 20 scouts and 10 general managers could be on hand.

“How often do you get to see that exciting of a matchup?” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.

Nola and Beede have never pitched against one another.

In fact, they’ve pitched against the other team just once: during a three-game series at Alex Box in 2012.

They became acquaintances at last year’s SEC tournament in Hoover, meeting in the team hotel lobby and exchanging numbers.

That’s turned into a friendship kept alive through text messaging.

“We built a little bit of a relationship off the field,” Beede said in an interview earlier this week.

Beede has a few connections to Louisiana.

His brother, Kyle, is a former LSU-Eunice pitcher and now serves as a volunteer assistant at the school. Beede’s father, Walter, owns the Louisiana Baseball and Softball Academy in Metarie.

His dad moved a few years ago from the family’s home in Massachusetts to southern Louisiana to be closer to his ball-playing sons.

He doesn’t miss a game in Nashville, Tyler Beede said.

Kyle Beede played with current LSU and former LSU-Eunice pitchers Zac Person and Brady Domangue. On a visit to Alex Box Stadium last week to watch them play, he ran into Nola, had someone snap a shot and then posted it online.

It spawned the text from Beede to Nola, which set of a chain of messages between the two stars that lasted a few days, Beede said.

The conversation was unrelated to baseball. It was more family and life-related, Beede said.

He made sure, too, that his big brother wasn’t switching allegiances and that he had behaved himself.

“Nola said he was a funny dude,” Beede said with a laugh.

The joking ends Friday night for these two.

They both insist they’re not caught up in the “Nola vs. Beede” theme. Each is pitching against the other’s bats, they say.

“It’s not if I beat you in this game,” Nola said, “I’m better than you.”

Oh, but they’ll watch one other from the dugout, parting their teammates to get a view while resting on the bench.

Pitching against an equal does that.

“It’s going to boost our drives,” Nola said.

“We’re both going to be doing the same thing — trying to be as deepest as we can in the ballgame,” Beede said.

As statistics go, Beede and Nola are similar. How they get there is all-together different.

Nola has a more side-arm delivery. Beede’s is the old-fashioned over the top.

The reserved and shy Nola is more emotionless on the mound. Beede is the talkative and outgoing sort.

Nola’s “out” pitch, the one he relies upon for a swing-and-miss, is a low-90s fastball. Beede’s is a low-80s curveball.

Both, though, lean heavily on a steep fastball that tops out in the mid-90s. There’s another similarity: They’re both really good.

And despite that focus resting on the other’s team’s batting order, there’s a curiosity about what the other guy’s doing.

“I might be telling guys to slide over,” Beede said, “so I can watch him face our hitters.”