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Blue Devils in the midst of late-season stumble

Despite a valiant effort against Georgia Tech last weekend, the baseball team could not pull out a win against the No. 21 Yellow Jackets (30-17, 12-5 in the ACC). After losing the first two games by a 9-8 score--one in extra innings--the Blue Devils (23-23, 7-11) did not have enough to take the third game from the league's third place team, losing 14-3.

Duke tied up Friday night's extra-inning 9-8 loss with two runs in the ninth. A single to left field with the bases loaded, however, brought home the Yellow Jackets' winning run just one inning later. Tim Layden, who leads the Blue Devils with 71 strikeouts, was Duke's starting pitcher Friday and gave up seven runs on eight hits in five innings of work.

At the plate, the Blue Devils were able to keep pace with Georgia Tech thanks to a strong fourth inning and clutch hitting in the ninth. Adam Murray led off for Duke in the fourth and homered to right center for the second time this season. Layden walked and a throwing error by Yellow Jacket shortstop Tyler Greene sent Brian Hernandez to second and Layden to third. Mike Miello and Bryan Smith singled to opposite sides and scored Layden and Hernandez, tying the game at three, but the Blue Devils were not done. John Kyle Silver, Javier Socorro and Murray each picked up an RBI before the inning was over.

Though Georgia Tech was able to catch up by the sixth inning and extend its lead to two runs, Eric Baumann launched a two-run home run in the ninth to tie the game and send the teams into extra innings, where the Yellow Jackets plated the winning run.

A similar spectacle took place the next day when a Yellow Jacket single into right center field scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Zach Schreiber started the game and gave up seven runs in six innings. Greg Burke relieved Schreiber and took the loss, allowing two runs.

Offensively, Duke outhit its opponent Saturday, something the team rarely does. Socorro, who leads the team with a .391 batting average, went 4-for-6, and Layden went 2-for-3, adding two RBIs to his team-leading tally. Five Blue Devils had multi-hit games, but Duke could not manufacture the runs it needed to win, as the team stranded 12 men on the bases.

Sunday, however, the Blue Devils struggled on the mound and at the plate. Five Duke pitchers saw the mound, and only one left without giving up a run as the Yellow Jackets finished their sweep with a commanding 14-3 win.

Though Duke scored two runs in the first inning, Georgia Tech answered with one in the second and jumped ahead with eight in the third. For the second day in a row, the Blue Devils stranded 12 men on the bases.

Down by nine in the sixth, Duke scored another run, but the Yellow Jackets promptly answered and then scored two more runs in the eighth as Duke seemed to run out of steam after losing two close games.

Hoping to rebound from the sweep, Duke lost to High Point (9-39) yesterday afternoon by a final count of 2-1. Panther pitcher Josh Cotten tossed eight scoreless innings, scattering a walk and four hits among Blue Devil batters.

Cotten's performance spoiled a sterling outing by pitcher Danny Otero, who allowed just a two-run home run in the fourth inning, fanning four in seven frames for the longest outing of his Duke career. Second baseman Bryan Smith plated Layden in the top of the ninth inning to provide the final margin.

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