FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — When he entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning of Saturday’s come-from-behind win, it had been two weeks since Nick Coomes had stepped to the plate.
So, of course, he hit a booming leadoff double to kick-start a rally that saw LSU score eight runs in the final two innings and erase a six-run deficit.
Coomes followed with a single that loaded the bases in the ninth, and he scored the tying run on an Arkansas error.
“We kind of preach it with our guys to stay locked in as long as possible, because you never know when your opportunity may come,” Coomes said. “There is always that opportunity where you can come in late in the game and make a difference. I got my opportunity late.”
It also earned him a start at catcher for the series finale Sunday. LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he decided to give Coomes the start for a couple of reasons.
Usual catcher Michael Papierski’s strength is controlling the other team’s running game, but the powerful Razorbacks don’t attempt too many steals. The wind was also howling in from right field, sapping Papierski’s best offensive tool as a pull hitter with some power from the left side.
“We’re not giving up that much defense because they’re probably not going to steal a lot, so let’s get a little more offense in there,” Mainieri reasoned.
Coomes delivered. He cracked a double into the right-field corner to score one of LSU’s two runs in Sunday’s series-clinching win.
The LSU-Eunice transfer and Baton Rouge native is now hitting .344, and he appears to be past a hip injury that kept him out of the lineup for long stretches of his debut season.
“It’s better,” Coomes said. “I got some treatment and have been doing things with (LSU athletic trainer Cory Couture). Everything’s getting back healthy.”
Top, top, drop
Sophomore left fielder Antoine Duplantis batted in the leadoff spot for the first two games of the series but was dropped to the No. 9 spot Sunday.
“Just taking a little pressure off him, trying to get him going a little bit,” Mainieri said. “He’s in a little bit of a rut. But he’s going to come out of it. I saw some positives.”
Duplantis went 0 for 11 with four strikeouts in the series but hit the ball hard in his final two at-bats — a line drive to the shortstop and a fly ball to right field.
The Razorbacks left 31 runners on base this weekend.
They didn’t have as many opportunities against LSU freshman Eric Walker on Sunday, but they left 13 on base in each of the first two games of the series.
Eighteen of those stranded runners came when Arkansas left the bases loaded. The Razorbacks managed to score one run in six opportunities with the bases loaded this weekend, and that came on a walk.
Arkansas didn’t really give itself a chance, because it only put the ball in play once. The Razorbacks went 0-for-7 with the bases loaded, and six of the seven outs came via strikeout.