Seventh-ranked LSU scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and used a stellar pitching performance from freshman Aaron Nola to defeat ULM 4-1 Friday evening in the opening round of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional.
With the win, LSU (44-16) moves into the winner’s bracket and will take on Oregon State Saturday at 7 p.m. ULM (31-29) will meet Belmont Saturday at 2 p.m. in an elimination game.
It was a pitcher’s duel for most of the night Friday as ULM starter Randy Zeigler went toe-to-toe with Nola for six innings before finding trouble in the seventh. Nola (7-4) was better, though, as he allowed just one run on four hits while striking out a career-high 10 batters in eight innings of work. Chris Cotton came on and worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to pick up his first save of the season.
In a 1-1 game, Ty Ross led off the bottom half of the seventh inning with a line drive single off the glove of ULM shortstop Jeremy Sy. Alex Edward followed with a single through the right side to advance Ross to third. Edward took second on the throw. Tyler Hanover delivered the big blow with a two-run single up the middle to drive in Ross and Edward and give LSU its first lead of the night. Austin Nola added an RBI single to centerfield off senior reliever Wil Browning to make the score 4-1.
Zeigler (5-7) pitched 6.1 innings, giving up five hits, three earned runs while striking out three and walking one in his return to Alex Box Stadium. The junior left-hander began his career at LSU before transferring out following the 2009 season.
ULM had an opportunity to take the lead in the top of the seventh inning when it loaded the bases with just one out, but junior Corben Green grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.
The Warhawks struck first in the top of the third inning when Les Aulds laced a two-out single through the right side to score Taylor Abdalla from second base. Abdalla reached on a single to left field and advanced to second on a groundout to shortstop.
LSU answered right back in the bottom half of the inning with a run keyed by a throwing error on Zeigler. The left-hander appeared to have Arby Fields picked off at first base, but his throw sailed down the right-field line, allowing Fields to take third base. A batter later Austin Nola delivered a sacrifice fly to left field to tie the game at 1-1.
Regional Notes: Oregon State defeated Belmont 2-1 in the first game of the day … 9,902 fans were in attendance for Friday evening’s game between LSU and ULM, an NCAA Tournament record for all games played in a Baton Rouge Regional since 1986 … ULM senior Caleb Clowers went 0-for-4 Friday to snap his 27-game hit streak … Clowers also had his 31-game on-base streak come to an end … The Warhawks are now 1-9 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 0-4 against LSU in postseason play … ULM’s matchup against Belmont on Saturday will be the first ever meeting the two schools.
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