It was a rough weekend for the Blue Devils at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Duke was swept for the first time since early April, falling to Miami 6-1 Friday, 9-1 Saturday and 4-3 Sunday. The Blue Devils left a total of 21 runner stranded during the three-game set.
Duke led the Hurricanes 3-1 going into the sixth inning of Sunday's game but were unable to hold on as No. 15 Miami rallied to score two in the sixth inning and one in the eighth inning to grab the series finale on Mother’s Day.
“The story of the series [was] they got two-out hits and we didn’t,” Duke head coach Chris Pollard said. “We just had a ton of opportunities with runners in scoring position that we didn't capitalize on, and that was the difference.”
With runners in scoring position in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, Duke (30-21, 15-12 in the ACC) had chances to tie or take the lead Sunday but was unable to come up with the big hit when it was needed.
Blue Devil senior right-hander Drew Van Orden had an uncharacteristically shaky start Friday. After going four straight starts allowing only one earned run, Van Orden surrendered five earned runs in 6.2 innings of work against Miami, taking the loss in the series opener.
Junior southpaw Trent Swart was solid in 6.1 innings of work in his start Saturday, allowing only two earned runs and striking out six Hurricane batters. Sophomore Michael Matuella followed suit, tossing six innings and allowing just two earned runs and striking out seven.
Things almost got away from Duke on Mother’s Day in the sixth inning Sunday as Matuella surrendered three straight doubles to level the score at three, but the right-hander remained poised and was able to retire the next three Miami batters to keep his team in the contest.
“He gave us a good enough start to win the ballgame,” Pollard said. “He did show a lot of toughness to settle down after giving up three straight doubles, and I think it shows his continued maturation. He’s still very early on in his ACC career, so he’s learning as he goes. I thought that was a really good moment for him to have to battle out of those struggles and get us off the field right there in the sixth inning in a tied ballgame.”
Despite the strong starts from the Blue Devil pitchers, Miami (38-14, 22-5) and its pitching staff lived up to its billing as one of the toughest in the league. Hurricane starters Chris Diaz, Andrew Suarez and Bryan Radziewski gave up only four earned runs over the course of the series. The Miami bullpen also came up big, allowing no runs in five innings of work this weekend.
“They’re very, very good,” Pollard said. “That’s as good of three left-handers as any pitching staff in the country—easily—and Diaz and Suarez are likely going to pitch in the big leagues.”
Only three conference games remain on Duke's regular season schedule before the team heads down to Greensboro, N.C., for the ACC tournament. The Blue Devils are currently fourth in the ACC with a one-game lead over North Carolina. Duke has already clinched a spot in the 10-team ACC tournament and will look to remain in the top six in the ACC standings by the end of next weekend in order to avoid competing in a win-or-go-home play-in game to open the tournament.