BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Aaron Nola pitched his heartout all season for the LSU Tigers and he hopes all the hard work pays off at the next level.
The LSU pitching ace isone of three finalists for the national player of the year award, but the focusis on Thursday night's Major League Baseball draft.
The dust is still settlingon LSU's abrupt and all-too-sudden postseason ending and for some, theconclusion hasn't quite set in.
"It doesn't even feel likeit's ended," said Nola. "(It) feels like I'm still a Tiger."
However, much to thedismay of the Purple and Gold faithful, he is not.
"It hit me the other nightafter the game, but now I've been kind of steady. But as time goes on, probablyover the next couple of days, it's probably going to hit me a little harder,"Nola added.
The MLB draft coulddefinitely soften the blow. The Baton Rouge native said it's time to focus onhis future. He also recalled a similar situation with a standout Tiger pitcherjust two years ago.
"I watched (Kevin)Gausman. He actually did it in the lounge, too, where I'm going to do it. Iwatched him get picked fourth overall and that was an exciting moment for usand him and his family," Nola explained.
He said it's always been adream of his to get drafted into professional baseball and now, it's verypossible that he follows in the footsteps of former LSU standout and ace of the80s, Ben McDonald, as not only the No. 1 overall pick, but also Golden SpikesAward winner. However, there is one area that Nola has already surpassed the1988 Olympian.
"He did something I neverdid," said McDonald. "He won the SEC Pitcher of the Year twice, two years in arow. Nobody's ever done that before, so that speaks for how good Aaron Nola'sbeen. He's been the best pitcher in college the last two years and there's notwo ways around that."
Twenty-five years afterbeing the Golden Spikes Award winner, the only Tiger ever to do so, McDonaldreflected on what the award still means to him.
"The Golden Spikes is theequivalent of the Heisman Trophy in football. That's what it is. It's the bestcollege baseball player that year. And it's something they can never ever takeaway from you. And I cherish that Golden Spikes Award because not many peoplehave them," McDonald explained.
"I see his number up thereretired and he's the face of LSU. He's LSU's great. I never really got to seehim play but we see highlights of him, we see tapes of him and the guy wasunbelievable," said Nola.
"The Golden Spikes is veryrare and so is being the No. 1 pick, but it puts you in a fraternity, if youwill, of a very few that's out there to do that. So, it's something you lookback on later in your career and say, 'Hey, that's a pretty goodaccomplishment,'" McDonald added.
And just maybe, McDonald'sfraternity of just six players grows to seven in the next few weeks.