By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
OMAHA, Neb. — No matter how much baseball one watches, each and every game possess the potential to produce something never seen before.
Case and point: the first inning Saturday night.
With LSU trailing 2-0, Antoine Duplantis drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the first inning. Greg Deichmann then struck out, which would’ve ended the inning, but the ball got away from Florida State catcher Cal Raleigh.
That’s when things got wild.
Duplantis, running on the pitch, alertly tracked the ball and never slowed down. Deichmann hesitated for a few seconds before running to first base.
By the time Raleigh retrieved the ball — there’s a lot of foul territory in TD Ameritrade Park behind the plate — the wet ball slipped out of his hand as he tried to throw to first.
Meanwhile, Duplantis never stopped. Seemingly lost in the chaos — Tyler Holton, the pitcher, had walked toward the dugout thinking the inning was over — he scored LSU’s first run without a throw as nobody covered home plate.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of something like that,” he smiled. “I was stealing on the pitch I saw it go by him I went to third and I saw him bobble a little more and the pitcher wasn’t covering. So I went home.”
Third base coach Nolan Cain simply pointed to the plate as Duplantis rounded third, not wanting to attract the attention of Holton.
Officially, it’s scored a steal of second base by Duplantis and then a two-base wild pitch because there was nobody covering the plate.
“That I’ve never seen,” second baseman Cole Freeman laughed. “I’ve seen guys score on a passes ball from second base, but on a strikeout from first base? That’s just head’s up base running realizing that nobody was covering the plate.
“Honestly, if you ask me, I think Antoine Duplantis was the MVP of the night.”
It stood as a foreshadowing moment for the madness that was yet to come in LSU’s dramatic, bizarre, 5-4 victory.
“I’m just going to keep sending people,” a relieved Cain joked as LSU made its way off the field.
Nick Coomes returned to the starting lineup for the first time since suffering a thumb injury in LSU’s NCAA Tournament opener.
The junior first baseman didn’t waste any time getting back to work.
Coomes lined a sharp single to left off the first pitch he saw from Florida State lefty Tyler Holton, though he was erased trying to take second on a pitch in the dirt. Coomes took a pitch to begin his next at-bat before rifling another single to left.
“He really played a good game,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “He had one base running situation where he probably used poor judgment, probably shouldn’t have gone on a ball in the dirt there. But overall I thought he played great.”
It wasn’t all offense, either.
Coomes made a nifty stretch to save Kramer Robertson an error in the seventh inning. He then showed off the arm with a strong return throw to complete an inning-ending 5-3-5 double play.
It was part of a stretch of three consecutive innings that LSU ended by turning a double play. Consider that LSU had only turned one double play since May 12.
That bought them enough time to stage an improbably eighth-inning rally and win the game 5-4.
“It’s not every day you see a 5-3-5 double play,” Coomes said. “I felt like that shifted the momentum totally to our side and it stayed there for the rest of the game.”
Coomes led off the seventh with a walk, his third time on base in as many plate appearances. He was lifted for a pinch runner, Jake Slaughter, to cap an all-around quality night back at the office.
A WORTHY CAUSE
Alex Lange’s first pitch was followed by a brief delay.
It was for a worthy cause.
Home plate umpire Mark Uyl called timeout and tossed the ball into the LSU dugout. It’ll be sent to the office of injured Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, who continues to recover after the Virginia at a baseball field shooting earlier this week.
The NCAA granted the gesture at the request of LSU, Scalise’s Alma matter. The university sent official baseball hats and tee shirts to Washington D.C. Thursday that were worn by both sides in the annual Congressional Baseball Game.
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