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Duplantis, Cabrera Lead LSU to 12-7 victory over ULM in opener

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Tiger outfielders earn their stripes in game one.

Antoine Duplantis and Daniel Cabrera put forth superhero efforts in LSU’s season-opening 12-7 victory over ULM Friday night.

The duo combined to go 5 for 9 with 11 RBI via five hits, four of which were home runs including Duplantis’ game-sealing grand slam in the bottom of the 8th.

“That was a crazy night,” Duplantis said. “I don’t know how to describe it.”

ULM opened the game by capitalizing on LSU mistakes. Hess lost leadoff batter Ryan Humeniuk on a 3-2 count. A steal assisted by a ball in the dirt lead to a run on Trent Tingelstad’s double over centerfielder Zach Watson’s head. On the next pitch, Chad Bell knocked a two-run home run to left to give the Warhawks a 3-0 lead before LSU even touched their bats.

LSU responded with a three-base error that put Josh Smith at third. The ball was dropped by centerfielder Jake Kaufman, but only after he had to backpedal 20 feet to make a play on the ball. Brandt Broussard was then hit by a pitch, setting up Daniel Cabrera’s two run single smashed to left.

After both teams were silent in the second, Tingelstad crushed a loud no-doubter to right field to add another run for the Warhawks. Josh Smith dropped what would have been the inning-ending pop out, setting up an RBI single from Andrew Beesley to put ULM on top 5-2.

LSU got those two runs back in the bottom half of the inning when Cabrera smoked a two-run line drive home run into the Diamond Deck.

LSU pulled Hess in the 4th, after he allowed six hits and two walks in 3.2 innings and gave up five runs, four earned.

“He just had trouble throwing his slider today,” Mainieri said. “He was throwing hard, but he was just a one-pitch pitcher and they hit them hard because they’re good fastball hitters. He’ll get better, he’s just got to get back to the grind.”

With runners on first and second with two outs, Trent Vietmeier came into the game and gave up a line drive that was somehow snagged by Drew Bianco to keep the game within a run.

“I thought the key play of the game was Bianco making that leaping catch with a runner in scoring position,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “I thought that kept us right there.”

Daniel Cabrera picked up his fifth RBI in his third at-bat when he tied the game with a leadoff opposite field home run to left center.

“I felt good at the plate,” Cabrera said. “I felt good in the field, I think it was a special opening night.”

Eric Walker, making his first appearance for LSU since having Tommy John surgery, relieved Vietmeier and pitched well for a return, throwing 2.1 innings and allowing just two hits and a run with a strikeout.

A big moment in the game came when Cabrera laid out for a line drive in the top of the 8th with ULM threatening. Not only did Cabrera come up with the play, he was able to fire the ball back to Bianco at first to complete the standard F7-3 double play to bail LSU out of a potentially threatening jam.

“Luckily I got the catch, then I heard (Zack) Watson out in center yelling ‘one one one!’ because he was at second so I threw it as hard as I could back to third,” Cabrera said. “I’m just trying to be the best defender I can be because when you have Watson and Antoine you have to work your butt off because those guys are the best defensive players in the country.”

LSU took the lead when Antoine Duplantis smoked a two-run home run 392 feet into right, scoring Smith.

Duplantis isn’t known for his long ball prowess, but ahead of this weekend he decided that he would loosen up the tie and see what happens when he takes more aggressive cuts.

“I’ve made some minor swing adjustments,” Duplantis said. “I was telling my friends before that I was going to let it rip this weekend. I’m not going to feel for anything, I’m just going to let it rip and see what happens. My first couple of at-bats were decent so I stuck with it and it paid off for me.”

ULM immediately responded after the leadoff batter Carson Klepzig reached when neither Devin Fontenot nor Drew Bianco could pick up a slow roller off the ground. A single from Nathan Miranda moved him into the scoring position and the pair tied the game on Humeniuk’s single up the middle.

LSU finally put ULM away for good when a pair of errors and walks allowed LSU to re-tie the game and load the bases for Duplantis, who tied his season high for home runs when he knocked his second career grand slam to give LSU a comfortable 12-7 lead.

“I haven’t hit two in one game since my sophomore year in high school,” Duplantis said. “I’ll probably just hit singles and doubles the rest of the year because I only hit two a year at LSU.”