By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Antoine Duplantis didn’t waste any time extending his career-length hitting streak to 16 games on Wednesday night.
Facing a lefty with serious movement on his fastball, the rookie right fielder singled home a run in the first and tripled home another in the sixth. He finished the night a perfect 3-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored and one of LSU’s six stolen bases.
Led by Duplantis, LSU (13-3) pounded out 10 hits and cooled off a surging UNO (13-4) club, winning 9-4 at Alex Box Stadium to head into Friday’s Southeastern Conference opener against Alabama riding a modest three-game winning streak.
“I told you right from the start that he’s going to be a tremendous ballplayer for us in this league and in this country,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “There’s something about that kid when he arrived that I could tell he could do it. He’s just a good ballplayer and he’s going to keep getting better.”
“I just feel good right now,” Duplantis said. “I’m just trying not to change anything and not let anything get in my head.”
In the process, Duplantis pulled himself into a tie for the third-longest hitting streak by an LSU freshmen dating back to 1997.
The only two he’s still chasing? Alex Bregman (23 games) and LSU great turned UNO coach Blake Dean (20 games).
“I didn’t know that,” Duplantis laughed. “It’s nice. That’s a part of coming to LSU, too. If you play well, you’re in the company of some really great players as well.”
Designated hitter Jordan Romero broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning with a two-out, two-run single back up the middle and the bats kept hitting from there. Chris Reid, making his third consecutive start at third base in place of an ailing O’Neal Lochridge, followed with an RBI single to stretch the lead to 5-2.
Two batters after Duplantis’ run-scoring triple, Bryce Jordan belted his first career home run deep into the left-field bleachers. TrackMan estimated the ball went 387 feet and left the bat at 98.6 mph.
“I’ve been struggling at the plate the last two games,” Jordan said. “I just needed something to get me up. Got the fastball that I wanted and did what I could with it.”
Blake Dean hit the first ever home run in the new Box during his days as a star backstop for Paul Mainieri and the Tigers. His younger brother, Dakota — also an ex-Tiger — put the Privateers ahead 1-0 early with an opposite-field off Alden Cartwright in the first inning.
For the most part after that, he return of Jack Wholestaff went about as planned for LSU.
Ten pitchers divvied up the nine frames — none lasted more than a full inning — and managed to keep a red-hot Privateer lineup in check. LSU scatted eight hits and four walks against a UNO team that entered the game hitting .328 as a team.
“There were a couple innings there that were a little bit nerve racking,” Mainieri said. “I’m not sure how we got out of the inning with (Austin) Bain pitching … But some of the guys did a really good job. But it worked out. We needed to get them all on the mound.”