Lafayette High’s Antoine Duplantis said he didn’t think the Sulphur Golden Tors would do it.
Mighty Lion teammate Brandon Audette said he assumed they would.
LHS coach Sam Taulli said he certainly understood the logic behind the move.
All three were just thrilled with the result.
With the undefeated, No. 1-ranked Tors leading 9-8 with two outs and the bases empty, Owen Thibodeaux hit a grounder to short in what could have been the game’s final out. Instead, it was bobbled to bring Duplantis to the plate.
Instead of pitching to Duplantis, who already was 4-for-4 on the day, Sulphur coach Jason Trahan intentionally walked the Lions’ speedy centerfielder to put the tying run on second.
Audette made him pay by lining a game-winning, two-run double to center for a dramatic 10-9 win over Sulphur in District 3-5A play Tuesday at Mighty Lion Field.
The Lions improved to 18-5 and 6-1, while Sulphur dropped to 24-1 and 6-1.
“Obviously, they weren’t going to pitch to Antoine,” said Audette, who was 0-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt and a walk before his final at-bat. “The pressure can get to you if you let it. I was ready for it. I just tried to give it by best.
“I noticed that their pitchers had been throwing me off-speed stuff all day long, so once it got to 3-2, I was looking for an off-speed pitch.”
Audette’s liner, that seemed to trick Sulphur’s centerfielder in midair, easily brought home Thibodeaux and Duplantis with the winning runs.
“I didn’t think they were going to do it,” Duplantis said. “I thought they’d only do it if Owen got to second base and they had a base open. When it happened, I knew Branson would have a good at-bat and hit it hard somewhere.”
In his previous at-bat in the fifth, Duplantis narrowly missed a three-run homer off the wall, settling for an RBI single, and a 4-for-4 day with four RBIs.
“I really wanted to win this game and give them their first loss,” Duplantis said. “I was ready today. When I got fastballs, I hit them hard. Fortunately, the one I didn’t hit hard, got through (the infield).”
Taulli said he told his team after the game that he’s long believed in the philosophy of not letting the opponent’s best or hottest player beat you.
In fact, he somewhat exercised it during Sulphur’s seven-run fifth inning. The Lions were hinting at another runaway win, similar to the 12-2 run-rule of Sam Houston the week before, when they took a 7-2 lead into the fifth.
A Duplantis two-run single sparked a four-run second and a Thibodeaux sacrifice fly and RBI singles by Duplantis and Hudson Laborde ignited the three-run fourth.
But the Tors spoiled those plans in a big way with seven runs in the fifth. After a two-run double by Andrew Mire got the inning going, the Lions suddenly had to face Austin Nelson, who had homered in the fourth, with the bases loaded, leading 7-4.
Taulli said he told starting pitcher Bo Hardin that if he walked Nelson with the bases loaded, he wouldn’t be upset. He didn’t end up walking him.
Instead, Nelson smashed a line drive grand slam to rightcenter to give Sulphur a 8-7 lead at the time. Derek Scott would follow a Lion error with an RBI double for a 9-7 lead.
“I didn’t want to let their best hitter beat us,” Taulli said. “So I totally understand what Jason was thinking right there. I wouldn’t have wanted to pitch to Antoine either. Branson has been doing a great job in the two-hole. I think it took some of the pressure off him not hitting in the five-hole. Plus, I like the fact that when Antoine gets on base, he sees more fastballs.”
Sulphur tried to pick up some insurance in the top of the seventh when Scott singled and Logan Louviere walked with two outs. Kyle Griffin singled to left, but Tayler Miller gunned Scott down at the plate to keep it at 9-8.
Adam Arnold got the win for the Lions after throwing two innings of scoreless relief.
“Adam did a great job of not letting them add on,” Taulli said. “He started to lose it a little bit in the seventh. He was cutting himself and he was missing low, but if you’re going to miss, that was a good place to miss in this ballpark today.
“They (Tors) had been doing a great job of finding ways to win games. I guess the odds just worked against them today.”