BATON ROUGE, La. — Daniel Cabrera is a freshman no more.
Despite facing a four-run deficit to start the bottom of the ninth inning, LSU came back to defeat Tennessee 9-7 on Sunday behind a 3-run walk-off home run from Cabrera, the Tigers’ freshman designated hitter. The home run was Cabrera’s fourth of the season and improved the Tigers to 24-13 on the season, 9-6 in SEC play.
— LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) April 16, 2018
“I want to be remembered as one of the best hitters in clutch situations and I want to play against the best players,” Cabrera said. “That pitcher was amazing — 94-96 mph, that’s really hard to hit. That’s why I want to play in the SEC. To play with the best.”
The Tigers put together a rally to take the lead in the bottom of the ninth, helped in large part by some defensive blunders by the Volunteers. LSU’s first three batters of the inning reached on a single and two errors by the shortstop, the second of which scored a run. Antoine Duplantis followed the run-scoring error by being hit by a pitch, bringing Austin Bain to the plate as the winning run with no outs.
Bain doubled into right-center field, scoring Beau Jordan and Zach Watson and trimming Tennessee’s lead to 7-6. For Bain, the situation was particularly bizarre. In addition to being the Tigers’ second baseman, he also serves as the team’s closer. So between at-bats, Bain was in the bullpen throwing warm-up pitches. In fact, Bain didn’t get to watch Tennessee’s pitcher throw at all before he was on deck, meaning he went into his at-bat blind.
“They told me he has a plus-plus fastball so I was just geared up ready for the fastball and he gave it to me,” Bain said. “I gave it the best swing I could, as hard as I could. I just luckily made contact and scored them and I felt like the momentum just snowballed from there. The whole time we were down by 1 it felt like we were up by 10.”
The double brought catcher Hunter Feduccia to the plate, who struck out. Feduccia’s strikeout put Cabrera at the plate with one out, and Cabrera turned on the second pitch he saw into the jet-stream wind in right field, walking off for the Tigers.
“I can’t even remember,” Cabrera said about rounding the bases. “I kind of blacked out, once I hit it running around and stuff. But it was awesome. I didn’t know what was going on. I was kind of shell-shocked.”
This comeback represented the Tigers’ biggest ninth-inning comeback since the famed “Rally Possum” game in 2016. LSU hadn’t hit a walk-off home run since Chris Sciambra did so in the Super Regional against Louisiana-Lafayette in 2015.
“He knew as soon as he hit it that that thing was gone, and what a thing of beauty,” LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said. “What an amazing moment for the kid. I’m just so happy for the kid.”
How about the beginning of the game?
Making the first start of his LSU career, right-hander Devin Fontenot allowed 1 earned run on 2 hits with 4 strikeouts in two innings. After Fontenot retired the side in the first inning, Tennessee cleanup hitter Nico Mascia led off the second inning with a double into right field, which Duplantis couldn’t corral on a diving attempt. Two batters later, Vols first baseman Pete Derkay singled Mascia home. Fontenot struck out the other three batters he faced in the second inning.
After Fontenot, LSU turned to fellow freshman AJ Labas for the third inning, who struggled out of the bullpen. Usually LSU’s midweek starter, Labas allowed back-to-back two-out singles before Mascia smacked a 3-run home run into right field. Had it not been for a stiff wind blowing out toward right field, the Mascia shot probably wouldn’t have left the field of play. Labas struck out the following batter to end the inning.
The Tigers succeeded at putting leadoff men on base in the early innings but weren’t able to turn those baserunners into runs. In the first, second and third innings LSU reached to lead off with a Beau Jordan single, a Feduccia double and Hal Hughes reaching on an error, respectively. All three men were stranded on second base, though, as LSU’s next three batters went down in order each inning.
LSU bucked the trend in the fourth inning, when Bain opened the frame with a leadoff double and later came around to score on a passed ball. The Tigers put two more runs on the scoreboard in the fifth inning on an RBI double from Duplantis and an RBI single from Bain, trimming Tennessee’s lead to a run.
Weirdness in the seventh
After sophomores Todd Peterson and Matthew Beck combined to pitch 3 scoreless innings, left-hander Nick Bush came in for the seventh inning with the Tigers down 4-3. With one out and runners on first and second, Bush faced Tennessee shortstop Andre Lipcius.
Lipcius dribbled a comeback to Bush, who turned and threw to Bain. The only problem? Bain wasn’t covering second base. Shortstop Hughes was. Bain had the presence of mind to throw to first base for the second out, but the runner was safe at second base and leadoff man Jay Charleston, who started the play on second base, scored. First baseman Nick Webre had a split second where he could’ve turned and thrown home to attempt to retire Charleston, but he pocketed the ball.
Bush allowed 3 runs, 1 earned, on 3 hits in 1 2/3 innings pitched. He walked 2 batters and unleashed 2 wild pitches.
What’s next for LSU baseball?
LSU baseball travels to New Orleans on Wednesday for a road matchup against Tulane. Action is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. CT and will be available to watch online through Tulane’s live feed for a cost.