Antoine Duplantis can slap. He’s a skinny, speedy player with gap-to-gap power but a propensity to hit the ball on the ground, using his speed to pressure the opposing fielder’s throw.
Hitting coach Andy Cannizaro and Duplantis devoted this week to taking more aggressive swings, abandoning that slap-happy approach the Lafayette High freshman brought to campus.
“Getting everything going earlier, my load and everything,” Duplantis specified. “Getting the bat head out and not letting balls flare into left field and flare into the left-field bleachers. And hop on those early fastballs.”
LSU coach Paul Mainieri saw progress in Friday night’s win — Duplantis knocked an opposite-field single for his only hit — so the coach slid him to third in the batting order among five left-handed hitters in Saturday’s 5-4 loss.
Duplantis’ swing is short, and his ability to make the barrel meet the ball draws rave reviews from Cannizaro, who is attempting to diversify Duplantis’ approach.
“(Cannizaro) knows I have a little bit of strength, so he doesn’t want me to just slap the ball,” Duplantis said. “It doesn’t really work well with my swing. He wants me to get up there and be aggressive like a normal hitter. ... It helps a lot to be aggressive at the plate and just swing harder and not let the pitchers dominate you. Swing the bat early in the counts and try to hit the ball hard, and good things will happen.”
Part of a four-hit afternoon, Duplantis snuck a double down the right-field line in the first inning and put another one down the left-field line in the fifth.
Sandwiched between them? A slap.
With two on and one out, Duplantis sent a high chopper to first. Vinny Esposito snared it and looked home but decided to go to first. His pitcher neglected to cover.
Duplantis, who has now hit safely in each of his first six collegiate games, beat it anyway.
“He’s our three-hole hitter,” Mainieri said after the game. “He’s our guy and he’s going to keep getting better. He swung the bat well and he’s going to be a good one, that kid.”