They had their chances, but the Blue Devils could not come up with the big hit when it mattered this weekend.
Duke was swept by new ACC rival Pittsburgh this weekend at Charles L. Cost Field in Pittsburgh dropping the first game Friday afternoon 3-2 and then losing both ends of a doubleheader on Saturday, 5-1 and 8-5.
The story of the series, though, is how many men Duke left on base in each of the three games. In the first game of the series on Friday, the Blue Devils left 11 men stranded and in the doubleheader, they left nine and then 16 men on base in the first and second game, respectively.
“That’s a problem,” head coach Chris Pollard said. “It’s almost statistically impossible to have 16 hits [in the second game of the doubleheader] and leave 16 guys on base. It’s one of the weirdest lines I’ve ever seen in a box score of a college baseball game.”
It is a problem that has plagued this team all season and the coaching staff has been trying to find a way to fix the problem.
“We have to be aggressive,” Pollard said. “You can’t be passive. You can’t go up to the plate looking to take pitches, especially with runners in scoring position. A lot of it comes down to mindset and making sure that when you get in the box… that you’re looking to be the guy that drives them in and you’re going up to the plate expecting that you’re going to get a pitch you can handle and you’re ready for it when you get it.”
Again, the pitching was strong for the Blue Devils (14-11, 4-5 in the ACC), especially over the first two games of the series. Friday’s starter, senior Drew Van Orden, had a solid outing allowing only two earned runs and striking out five batters in 5.1 innings of work. His replacement, sophomore Nick Hendrix, was stellar, surrendering no runs, no hits and only one walk in 2.2 innings of relief.
After a shaky first inning where he allowed three runs, Saturday’s game one starter, junior Andrew Istler, recovered to allow only one more run and five singles in his final five innings of work against the Panthers (12-10, 4-5).
“Drew Van Orden gave us a very solid start… that was good enough to win the ball game,” Pollard said. “He had one run that scored on a wild pitch and one run that scored on a passed ball and so I felt like he gave us a start that was good enough to win the Friday night ball game. I thought that Nick Hendrix came in behind him and had a terrific relief appearance—allowed us to stay in the ball game…. I was proud of Istler. They had a really good offensive approach in the first inning and he settled in… and put five zeros on the scoreboard.”
Senior infielder Matt Berezo has been a consistent spark for the Blue Devils this season and has hit a new stride over the past few weeks. Berezo went 9-for-14 on the weekend but only scored two runs.
The Blue Devils will look to rebound from this setback when they visit Davidson Tuesday. The Wildcats lost 20-7 against Wofford Saturday and has surrendered at least six runs in four of their last five games. Davidson might be the team that Duke can use to work on overcoming their offensive woes.