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Tomahawked: Duke swept away by Florida State

A season of relative promise for the baseball team is heading slowly down the drain. A three-game sweep by Florida State (34-19, 13-8 in the ACC) in Tallahassee, Fla., sent Duke (23-27, 7-14) to its season-high seventh straight loss and into an even less promising last week and a half of the year.

Visiting the No. 25 Seminoles is always a daunting task--FSU is 123-29 against ACC opponents in the 13-year history of Dick Howswer Stadium--but the Blue Devils received ghastly performances from their starting pitchers and scored several of their runs on opportunities handed to them by the home team.

Friday night's 14-1 Florida State win set the tone for the weekend, much in thanks to catcher and cleanup hitter Aaron Cheesman. The junior, who has started every game behind the plate for the 'Noles in 2004, hit a two-run single after a double steal in the bottom of the first to put FSU ahead for good.

Cheesman then stole home two innings later--one of ten steals on the day for the team--in another nightmare sequence for Duke catcher Brian Hernandez, who allowed a passed ball soon thereafter to grant the Seminoles' their fourth run.

Tim Layden, who pitched a no-hitter earlier this season for a Blue Devils starting rotation that has been very hot at times, failed to get an out in the fourth inning. Two hits and a walk brought in a run and set up first baseman Ryne Malone's three-run homer over the right centerfield fence, finishing Layden in FSU's second of three four-run innings on the evening.

Game Two started just as inauspiciously for Duke, as the Seminoles sent 11 batters to the plate in the first inning, chipping away for seven runs at Blue Devils starter Greg Burke, who was tagged for all of Florida State's 10 runs in three innings of work.

A Duke comeback was in order, though, as Kevin Thompson held the tomahawks from chopping in five scoreless innings of relief work as Duke clawed back for another seven runs before the night was through. Bryan Smith hit an RBI double and scored a run in the fourth to bring Duke within 10-4, a deficit it would whittle with two bases-loaded walks in the top of the seventh before leaving the sacks full to end the frame and eventually falling for the sixth consecutive game, 10-7.

The Blue Devils got several more scoreless innings from the bullpen Sunday afternoon, but it was again too little too late as the Seminoles jumped all over Zach Schreiber, scoring in each of the first four innings to knock out their third straight opposing starter of the series before recording an out in the fifth. In the 6-3 loss, Duke scored only one earned run--and even that one came on a play that included an error by Cheesman.

With their momentum lower than it's been all season, the Blue Devils will return home to play Game One of a regular season-ending three-game series against Clemson tonight. The ACC Tournament begins Tuesday in Salem, Va.

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