Austin Nola sparkles in 4th of July home debut for Zephyrs
Metairie - Austin Nola had four hits and drove in a pair of runs to support Jose Urena, who pitched a five-hit shutout as the New Orleans Zephyrs blanked the Iowa Cubs, 7-0 on Saturday night.
Playing in his first game at Zephyr Field since being promoted to Triple-A, Nola led off the first inning with a single and reached on an error in the third. The former LSU Tiger then knocked in runs on a single in the fourth, and on a double to the wall in center field in the sixth before adding a single in the eighth.
Nola has had four multi-hit efforts in his first seven starts with the Zephyrs. The four hits tied his career high, set twice last year with Double-A Jacksonville.
"What can you say about Austin Nola? It was kind of his night," Zephyrs manager Andy Haines said. "I joked with (him), telling him 'I can't believe all these people came to see you play.' The reception he got when they announced his name was pretty special."
The Z's offered plenty of support for Urena, who owned the Pacific Coast League's best ERA prior to earning a Major League promotion in May. The right-hander retired the first 13 batters he faced and limited the I-Cubs to five hits en route to the first nine-inning complete game shutout by a Zephyr since Sean West in July 2010.
It was the 12th shutout of the season by the Zephyrs, the most of any team in Minor League Baseball and just one shy of the franchise record set in 2011.
"You could tell early he was in control of the game," Haines said. "He was impressive. We've seen him be really good but that was about as good as I've seen him."
Urena (5-0) struck out four and walked one as his ERA dipped to 0.97 in seven starts this season with New Orleans. He even chipped in at the plate, delivering an RBI single in a run of six consecutive hits during the Zephyrs' four-run fourth inning.
After the Z's plated a run in the second inning when Isaac Galloway's single cashed in a Jordany Valdespin two-out double, the Zephyrs jumped all over Iowa starter Frank Batista in the fourth. Donovan Solano led off with a single and scored when Juan Diaz doubled down the right field line.
Diaz scored on a single by Valdespin, who was tagged out between first and second on the play. But Urena came to the plate following back-to-back singles by Galloway and Brandon Bantz and ripped a single to left for his third hit of the year, and Nola capped the inning with a single to right.
Diaz had two doubles among three hits, giving him four straight multi-hit games, and Galloway added three knocks as the Zephyrs piled up 15 hits in the game.
The Zephyrs defeated Batista (0-2) for the second time in eight days. The Iowa hurler was charged with five runs on 11 hits in five innings.
New Orleans and Iowa continue the five-game series on Sunday at 4 p.m.