BATON ROUGE, La. — Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray was everything Sooner fans have come to expect. LSU's Aaron Nola was just as good in a game that turned into a classic pitcher's duel.
It came down to clutch hitting with runners in scoring position. LSU got the hit it needed while Oklahoma didn't, and the Tigers took Game 1, 2-0, in the NCAA Baseball Super Regional at LSU's Alex Box Stadium.
Gray (10-3) befuddled LSU for seven innings before JaCoby Jones ripped a one-out triple to right-center in the eighth. Pinch hitter Tyler Moore doubled Jones home, and LSU (56-9) had all the run production it would need.
“(Jones) hit a good pitch,” Oklahoma coach Sunny Go lloway said. “I thought Jon made a really good pitch. You've got to tip your cap sometimes. Their guy got the hit when they needed it.”
Oklahoma (47-20) will start Dillon Overton in Saturday's 6 p.m. game as the Sooners try to force Game 3.
All totaled, Gray lasted 7 1/3 innings, surrendering five hits and a pair of walks. He struck out nine, but he was charged with both runs after throwing 118 pitches.
“We keep a close eye on the pitch count, and it looked like Nola was winning the pitch count battle throughout the game. That was getting to be a concern,” said Golloway, who planned on taking Gray out after the eighth.
Nola (12-0) went the distance, and was more efficient in the early going when he built his pitch count edge. His two-hit shutout featured 102 pitches, no walks and six strikeouts.
Oklahoma's best scoring chance came in the fifth with the teams locked in a scoreless tie. Matt Oberste led off with a double to left-center, and took third on Hector Lorenzana‘s sacrifice.
But Nola bore down and struck out Anthony Hermelyn. Designated hitter Colt Bickerstaff followed with a high chopper to second base, and was thrown out by a step.
“Really, what it came down to was a man on third with less than two outs,” Golloway said. “Nola got a punch out when we needed to make contact.”
In contrast, Jones got the big hit for LSU in the eighth, and scored on Moore's double. Mark Laird's single to right brought home the second run.
“I had (Jones) 0-2, and we were going to expand off the plate,” Gray said. “I threw a fastball, but I left the ball up. It was too close to the zone, and it got hit.”
Taylor Alspaugh's defensive gem kept LSU off the scoreboard in the first inning.
With Sean McMullen on first and two outs, Mason Katz sent a drive to the gap in right-center. Alspaugh made a diving catch on a ball that likely would have been a double and scored McMullen.