Just call them the Cardiac Kids.
Days after a tough loss against top-20 East Carolina, the Duke baseball team (18-18, 6-6 in the ACC) rebounded with three consecutive come-from-behind victories, giving the Blue Devils a three-game sweep of Wake Forest (11-21, 1-11 ACC), their first three-game ACC sweep since 1998 and first of the Demon Deacons since 1994.
"I'm very pleased with the way my guys have competed," head coach Bill Hillier said. "They have not quit the whole season, and it's starting to show... I tell them that in baseball, things will even out, and things are beginning to even out for us."
Things began to even out for the Blue Devils in the first game of the series. Duke scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth to erase a 6-0 deficit and force extra innings. In the 11th frame, catcher Brian Hernandez plated outfielder Corey Whiting to complete the comeback.
"I just happened to see the ball really well on Friday," said Hernandez, smiling. "I found some holes, and I got four hits."
Outfielder Javier Socorro said Friday's comeback set the tone for the entire weekend.
"That first game against Wake, [Bryan Smith] pretty much summed it up when he said, 'This is the turning point of our season right here,'" Socorro explained. "Ever since that first game we've been playing well and competing until the last inning. Being able to come back and win these games in the last innings is huge."
The comeback trend continued into Saturday, when outfielder Mike Miello scored Socorro on a sacrifice fly to snap a 7-7 tie in the bottom of the ninth inning. Socorro went 3-for-5 for the game with two doubles and two runs. For the series, the sophomore outfielder batted a blistering .571 (8-for-14) and perpetuated a career-long 12-game hitting streak.
"I feel like I'm as comfortable as I've been all year," Socorro said. "I've just kept seeing the ball well, and sometimes you get into a groove."
The comeback win affirmed a strong outing from starting pitcher Zach Schreiber. The crafty senior befuddled Wake Forest batters all evening long, allowing only two runs on seven hits in six innings.
The Blue Devils, however, may have saved their best comeback for Sunday. The Blue Devils took an early lead after a Bryan Smith groundout scored third baseman Adam Murray. In the third inning, Duke extended its lead to 2-0 after junior Tim Layden launched a Danny Mackey pitch into right center for his team-leading fourth home run of the season.
Wake Forest, however, responded quickly when Brad Scioletti hit a two-run jack into left field in the top of the fourth. Duke would take a brief 4-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, but the Demon Deacons responded again, shelling Blue Devil freshman relief pitcher Tony Bajoczky for two hits, a walk and an error without retiring a batter. When the smoke cleared, Duke found itself in a 5-4 hole, setting up another batch of ninth-inning heroics.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Murray and Layden began the comeback with a walk and a single. Miello was then hit by a pitch to load the bases with just one out. Smith tied the game with his second RBI, plating pinch-runner Senterrio Landrum on a fielder's choice.
Right afterwards, Hernandez came through with his second game-winning hit of the series, a single to shortstop that scored pinch-runner Michael Golom.
After the game, Hernandez was ecstatic about his team's sweep.
"Because of the fact that earlier in the year we were losing some one-run games, it feels really good to put everything together and be able to win some of those games," Hernandez said, grinning. "Coming from behind makes it feel even better."
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