Antoine Duplantis: From Poster Child to Record Setter

by Cody Worsham
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Antoine Duplantis: From Poster Child to Record Setter

When Antoine Duplantis took the fourth pitch of his fourth at-bat on Friday night, he heard an unfamiliar sound from the Alex Box faithful.

Boos. A bunch of ’em.

The fans wanted strikes. They did not want balls. They wanted to see Duplantis, who had already tied the LSU record for hits in a career with his 352nd two innings earlier, set the new mark.

The next pitch was a strike, but Duplantis flew out. They’d have to settle with one historic moment, and a 17-3 victory over Stony Brook.

Of all the clutch hits the Tigers put together on Friday, none were as important as Duplantis’ three, which leveled him with Eddy Furniss for the most among any to ever suit up for the school.

Play stopped in the fifth, when he slapped hit No. 352 to left field and returned to first base to be greeted by a standing ovation. After LSU battled the final few weeks of the regular season to secure a home regional, Duplantis enjoyed the dividends.

“It was great,” he said of the moment after tying the record. “I was fortunate enough to have a ton of people in the stands today, since it was a regional game at home. It was a special moment. I’m glad I had family, friends, teammates, and my coaches to be here to witness it.”

Among those family was his brother, LSU track and field star Mondo, who knows a thing or two about setting records. The NCAA record-holder in pole-vaulting had lunch with his older brother Thursday, and he left the conversation confident Antoine would make history this weekend.

“He seemed pretty chill about it,” Mondo said Friday, before the Stony Brook game. “If it was six or seven hits, it would be a little more tough, because he’d have to have a really good weekend. I think three hits is so much in the realm of possibility with him that it’s not going to be a big deal.”

The hits came in typical Duplantis fashion, after a season that has been anything but typical for Twanie. His 11 home runs this season – after hitting just four career blasts in three prior seasons – have turned Duplantis into more of a pull hitter than in the past. Stony Brook feared his left-handed swing so much, they shifted the defense hard toward first base, with only the third baseman on the left side of the infield.

After reaching on an error in his first at-bat, Duplantis pulled a single through the shift to right field, much to Paul Mainieri‘s fake chagrin.

“The first hit I got today, I hit it in the hardest part to get a ball through the infield, and Coach Mainieri got on me and said I’m so hard-headed for not taking that hit in the six-hole (between a traditional shortstop and third base),” Duplantis said. “The next couple of at-bats, I had that in the back of my mind, so I was looking for a pitch I could push over there.”

He got them, and he pushed them. Each of his last two hits might’ve been ground outs against a standard infield, but Duplantis shoved two singles to left field behind the defense, hearkening back to the days of old – before he was a bonafide slugger.

“The reason he’s got 352 hits is because he uses the whole field,” Mainieri said. “He’s tough to pitch to. If you pitch him inside, he jerks it in the stands. If you pitch him away, he slaps it to left field. So I was really proud of him, to get a base hit to opposite field for the tying hit.”

To Mainieri, Duplantis is more than an unprecedented hitter. He called him “the poster child” for LSU Baseball, a guy who “does everything the right way” on and off the field.

“I’m not just proud of him because he’s got 352 hits,” Mainieri said. “He comes every day, he’s the same Antoine. He works hard in practice every day. He plays the games the same way, all out. He’s never been an ounce of trouble. He’s the opposite – he’s been the role model.”

In typical Duplantis fashion, he’s just happy to have the pursuit behind him. Sure, there’s a new record to set at some point, if and when his next hit comes. But the team-over-self attitude he’s carried throughout his career hasn’t stopped now that he’s a record-holder.

“It’s nice to get it out of the way,” he said. “At the same time, these last couple of days, I haven’t been thinking too much about it. Obviously, it’s in the back of my mind, but when I get in the box, I’m thinking about competing and getting the job done for the team.”

Friday night, the job was done, in the form of those three hits, as well as three RBI. Duplantis led a clutch-hitting parade that saw LSU get six of its 10 hits with runners in scoring position. LSU will need that clutch hitting Saturday against Southern Miss in the marble game that will see the winner move on to the regional final and the loser fall into the loser’s bracket.

With Duplantis in the lineup, there’s likely to be a few more clutch hits in the Tigers’ back pocket. One of them might even break a record.

“I count myself as the lucky one to have seen every one of his hits,” Maineiri said. “Hopefully he’s got lots more in him.”