BY AARON PATTERSON
DANVILLE — When he arrived in Danville to join the Dans, Austin Nola brought with him plenty of memories from his school season at Louisiana State.
Both he and Dans teammate Mikie Mahtook were late-comers after winning this year’s College World Series.
When Nola returns to LSU, he will take with him the credentials of hitting for his first-ever cycle. He did so in Wednesday’s 11-6 win over the DuPage Dragons.
“I’ve never hit one before,” Nola said. “I was just expecting to come to the game to play ball, have a few good at bats and hit the ball hard. The hits fell today.”
Nola reached base in all five of his at bats, including a first-inning laser to the shortstop whose throw to first was just off the mark, and drove in five runs.
After reaching on the error, Nola hit a home run, a double to left in his next at bat, followed by a triple in the sixth inning and a single to shallow center in his last at bat.
The LSU sophomore-to-be nearly accomplished the feat during this past season’s SEC tournament against Georgia but fell short by a homer.
Mahtook, who will be leaving the team early after suffering a pulled hamstring, was glad to see his teammate send him out on a good note.
“They say the hardest thing to hit in the game is a triple, so that’s probably the most impressive thing,” said Mahtook, who admitted he had a pretty good feeling about Nola’s night after watching him hit the third-inning 3-run homer. “I told him when he hit the home run, I said, ‘I’m leaving tomorrow morning, so you better hit your first home run out of here so I can see it.’
“He told me he was going to try. I said if it was a fastball, he better try to hit it out, and he did. I was pretty happy for him.”
Perhaps even more proud was Danville manager Pete Paciorek who has closely monitored Nola’s progression as a hitter throughout the summer.
Though it took awhile for him to get used to hitting with a wooden bat, Nola has gradually progressed into one of the Dans more consistent hitters finishing out the season.
“I haven’t seen that since I’ve been here as a coach, and in my career playing, I never did it,” Paciorek said. “That’s a special thing to do regardless of whether it is in summer or not. Austin Nola has worked as hard as anybody this summer on his swing. He’s really made some great adjustments. His bat path is a lot more efficient, a lot quicker to the ball.
“That 3-run homer was huge. He just swung a great bat for us today. Kudos to him for working as hard as he does.”