The No. 19 LSU baseball team completed the series sweep against Tennessee in walk-off homerun fashion, defeating the Volunteers 9-7 on Sunday.
The win is the reason why freshman designated hitter Daniel Cabrera came to play baseball at LSU, despite being drafted last summer by the San Diego Padres.
With two runners on and one out, Cabrera stepped up to the batter’s box and homered over the right field wall to lift LSU past Tennessee.
“It’s hard to put into words what we just witnessed today,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.
Entering the bottom of the ninth, LSU trailed by four runs and in those situations, history was not in the Tigers’ favor. Previously, when trailing by four or more runs in the ninth, LSU was 1-203. That single victory came in 2016 against Arkansas in the infamous “Rally Possum” game.
Cabrera’s walk-off homerun victory was the first for LSU baseball since Chris Sciambra did at the 2015 Super Regionals.
“I’ll remember that for the rest of my life,” Cabrera said. “I wasn’t nervous. I was excited. I wanted to be in that situation.”
So how exactly did the Tigers come back from a four run deficit in the bottom of the ninth? It started with Chris Reid in to pinch hit for shortstop Hal Hughes. Reid reached base on a error by the Volunteers shortstop to leadoff the inning.
Beau Jordan followed with a single up the middle to put runners on the corners with no outs for sophomore center fielder Zach Watson. Them, on a fielder’s choice, Watson reached to bring in Reid and move Jordan to second base. Still with no outs, LSU was down by three runs with two runners on base.
Tennessee’s ace, Will Neely, had nearly pitched a complete game before he was pulled for Zach Linginfelter who hit Antoine Duplantis to load the bases.
With Austin Bain at the dish, the senior doubled to right center field and scored two to put LSU within one run. And on a 1-0 count, Cabrera hit his fourth home run of the season to give LSU the 9-7 victory.
The Vols took an early 1-0 lead for the first time in the entire series, but starting pitcher Devin Fontenot struck out the side to ruin Tennessee’s chances of adding to the lead in the top of the second.
A.J. Labas replaced Fontenot in the third inning and Mainieri dipped deep into his bullpen throughout the match running through seven total pitchers. Taylor Peterson, who threw one pitch, earned the win moving to 1-0 on the season.
Labas gave up his first homerun of the season, and it was a three-run bomb to right field giving the Volunteers a 4-0 lead in the top of the third.
For four consecutive innings the Tigers’ leadoff hitter got on base, but the following batters struggled to make anything else happen. Neely had fired eight innings against the Tigers and was giving the entire lineup trouble.
“[Neely] has pitched great games against us,” Mainieri said. “Today he really had our number. We weren’t having a great game. We had some miscommunication.”
In the bottom of the fifth, LSU had started to close the gap on the Volunteers four run lead, pulling within one run. Watson was hit by a pitch and Duplantis doubled down the left field line to score Watson. On his second hit of the day, Bain singled to left field to score Duplantis.
Tennessee pulled away in the seventh and eighth innings scoring three runs on three hits.
“We didn’t have an overall good game today,” Mainieri said, “but we found a way to win.”
The victory marks Mainieri’s 1,400th career-win and he is only one of four Division I baseball coaches to reach that milestone.
“I’ve been fortunate for almost 36 years to have coached some really amazing young men at four wonderful institutions, and they’ve enriched my life,” Mainieri said. “They are all a part of this, they’re the ones that did it.”