Aaron Nola earned his fifth win of the season, grinding out 6 2/3 scoreless innings with an uncharacteristically high pitch count and a career-high four walks. But he also struck out eight and surrendered just two hits to set the tone for the LSU pitching staff.
"It was just a good, hard-fought SEC win tonight," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri.
After the first inning, it didn't seem like Nola would make it very deep in the game as it took him 31 pitches to escape a bases loaded jam. UGA 3B Hunter Cole reached on a two-out single, and Nola walked the next two to put a Bulldog on each bag. The next batter worked the count full, but Nola eventually earned the strikeout to end the inning.
"My control was all over the place," Nola said. "I battled through the end. I got myself in that big jam, but I worked out of it."
From there it was vintage Nola as Georgia didn't muster much of a threat in the remainder of Nola's outing. The Bulldogs did get a leadoff double to start the third, but Nola responded with two strikeouts before Chris Chinea caught the runner trying to steal third, ending the inning.
Nola didn't allow a hit the rest of the way and came out in the sixth after a two-out walk.
"Sometimes pitchers show their greatness when they just go out and dominate a game," Mainieri said. "Some show their greatness when they have to overcome stuff…That's what makes him so special. It's whatever it takes to get the job done, and that's why he's one of the greatest pitchers I've ever coached."
Meanwhile the LSU offense spotted Nola a 2-0 lead after two innings that could have been more had a first inning call gone their way. The Tigers had runners on the corners with Conner Hale at the plate. He drilled one to first base that got past a diving Jared Walsh, but the ball struck Kade Scivicque and the umpires ruled him out, ending the inning.
"That was a tough break for us because we really had some super at-bats in that inning," Mainieri said. "It was a run off the board, perhaps more, but our whole team hung in there and didn't get down."
The Tigers responded in the next inning, plating a pair. Christian Ibarra got it started with a leadoff single and Andrew Stevenson moved him into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Chris Chinea put Ibarra on third with a single and Kramer Robertson brought in the run with a groundout to shortstop.
Sean McMullen would tack on one more in the inning with a two-out double down the right field line.
"It's important to score runs when we get the opportunity," McMullen said. "I got down in the count early, but I just wanted to be able to hit something hard."
LSU followed a similar script as the first to add another run in the fourth. Ibarra started it off with a walk, and Stevenson's bunt moved him into scoring position. Chinea's single to right advanced Ibarra to third and another Robertson ground out scored the run.
"With one out and a man in scoring position, you got to get that big hit," Chinea said. "You got to hit in the clutch, and fortunately today I got two clutch hits."
The Tigers would make it 4-0 on a RBI-double by Ibarra in the fifth, which was more than enough run support for Nola and the LSU pitching staff.
Zac Person replaced Nola in the sixth inning, and forced a grounder to first to strand a pair. He took a one-out single off his foot in the eighth but struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
"Zac has just been throwing the ball so great," Mainieri said. "Initially I was using him as a situational lefty, but he's getting lefties out. He's getting right-handers out. It doesn't really matter. He's just doing a great job."
He got two more strikeouts to start the ninth but came out after a two-out double. That brought in Joe Broussard, who struck out the only batter he faced to secure the win.
LSU will look to clinch the series Saturday night as Jared Poche makes his second SEC start. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on CST.