The celebratory rundown for Antoine Duplantis was almost as impressive as his five-hit, game-winning day.
Sunday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium, after Duplantis sliced a fastball into left field that gave LSU a 7-6 win against South Carolina in the 10th inning, teammates mobbed him, dousing Duplantis with water bottles.
That was followed by an ice-water shower, two shaving cream pies and a cloud of baby powder thrown in his face.
It was a celebration befitting a player who finally provided a comfortable end for a team that felt like it teetered on a high wire for the final four innings of its series against the Gamecocks.
“It was a never-say-die attitude today,” LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “Guys stepped up when they needed to. A lot of people have been critical of this team for not stepping up in the clutch. Well, we stepped up in the clutch today many times in many different ways. Not just one guy. The whole team did.”
LSU erased one-run deficits in the eighth and ninth innings to force extras, then came through again with the winner in the 10th. Both teams also left the bases loaded in the ninth.
The Tigers threw out what would’ve been the go-ahead runner at the plate in the top of the 10th on a brilliant relay from the left-field corner.
South Carolina did not attempt a throw on Duplantis’ 10th-inning hit. Instead, left fielder Carlos Cortes chucked the ball into foul territory in disgust.
It was a white-knuckle ride to a series win for the Tigers, one that kept them within a game of the overall Southeastern Conference lead. For the Gamecocks, it was a disappointing finish to an otherwise highly competitive series that marked their sixth consecutive SEC series loss.
“The whole game, I never felt like we were going to lose,” Duplantis said. “I felt we always had a chance the whole time. We were fighting back every inning. Our pitchers were battling. I never really felt like we were down.”
It all started with speed.
The Tigers put the winning run in position with a leadoff infield single by Zach Watson, who raced down the line on a ground ball that South Carolina shortstop Madison Stokes could not field cleanly.
Two batters later, Stokes had a similar play with speedy Cole Freeman at the plate. Again, Stokes could not make the rushed transfer from glove to throwing hand, putting runners at the corners with one out for Duplantis.
“Having those guys who can run puts a lot of pressure on the other team. ... You go out there and have a guy running fast down the line, with all the pressure of national television, a big stadium, LSU — the whole thing — hey, they’re just kids," coach Paul Mainieri said.
“The speed puts pressure on them and forces them into some mistakes.”
Duplantis went to the plate looking for a slider, which he got, but it wasn’t for a strike. South Carolina left-hander John Parke fell behind 2-0, and Duplantis changed his mindset. He was hunting for a fastball instead.
He got one on the outside corner of the plate, and he stayed back on it, driving it the other way to score Watson with the game-winning knock. His fifth hit of the game was one shy of tying the his own single-game record, which he set earlier this year against Georgia.
“Once I got to 2-0, I was like, ‘If he throws me a slider 2-0, then I’ll tip my hat to him. But I’m not going to miss the fastball,’ ” Duplantis said.
His clutch hit was made relevant by a clutch defensive play in the top of the 10th. With Matt Williams on first base, South Carolina right fielder Jacob Olson pulled a double off Zack Hess (5-1) into the left-field corner.
Duplantis tried and failed to cut off the ball, allowing it to roll to the wall. Williams motored toward the plate as Duplantis fired his relay throw to Robertson.
“I was thinking if Antoine can get it in, if he can make a perfect throw to me and I can make a perfect throw home, maybe we had a chance,” Robertson said. “Antoine couldn’t have made a better throw; he threw it up and to my left, which is exactly where you’d want it to be, because I was able to keep my momentum going home.
“I got a good grip and threw it.”
The throw was nearly perfect — a laser directly to where catcher Michael Papierski was set up. The only problem was that it bounced in a tricky spot for Papierski — not a short hop, but not a long hop, either.
Papierski made the play. He secured the ball with Williams bearing down on him and made the tag. The play was reviewed and the call was upheld.
“That’s what guys who have the ‘it factor’ do: They make plays for you in situations like that,” Mainieri said of Robertson.