It was almost the stuff of baseball legends.
In a bottom-of-the-ninth rally, Duke scored two runs off three hits. Unfortunately, the Blue Devils were in the middle of a rout by Georgia Tech and were losing 19-1 going into the inning.
“We don’t have a clock,” head coach Bill Hillier said. “You’ve got to get 27 outs. Sometimes, you wish you could run the clock out.”
The baseball team received a harsh welcome to conference play at Jack Coombs Field this weekend as No. 13 Georgia Tech swept Duke in its first ACC series of the season.
In Sunday’s culminating matchup, the Yellow Jackets (11-2, 3-0 in the ACC) unleashed an offensive onslaught on the Blue Devils (6-11, 0-3), hammering Duke 19-3.
Notching at least one hit in every inning, the Yellow Jackets pounded the Duke pitching staff for 23 total hits and four home runs on the day.
“When an offense gets hot, sometimes it is hard to stop that,” Hillier said. “Obviously we had trouble slowing them down.”
Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters led his team with five hits and six RBIs for the game. The freshman went 12-for-14 on the weekend.
“[Wieters] had a great series,” Hillier said. “The first five or six guys in their order just wore us out.”
Wieters’ grand slam in the fourth contributed to an eight-run Ramblin’ Wreck rally. Designated hitter Michael Fisher opened the inning by knocking a homer to right field. After Blue Devil starter Danny Otero struck out the next batter, Tyler Greene reached base on an error by shortstop Adam Murray. Green went on to steal second, then score off a Jeremy Slayden single.
After Otero hit the next batter, Tony Bajoczky replaced him on the mound, but the sophomore reliever was unable to stop the bleeding. Yellow Jackets leftfielder Cameron Lane immediately singled off Bajoczky to load the bases for Wieters’ grand slam.
First baseman Whit Robbins followed the base-clearing hit with a double, and Mike Trapani singled to drive him across the plate. A Bajoczky wild pitch advanced Trapani to third, and the shortstop went on to score unearned the eighth and final Georgia Tech run of the inning.
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The disastrous frame showcased control problems the Duke pitching staff battled all weekend. In Sunday’s game, the Blue Devils threw five wild pitches and hit three Yellow Jacket batters. Duke pitchers also walked seven batters in Friday’s 11-3 loss and eight in Saturday’s 11-5 decision.
“When you’re playing a good team, you can’t give that many free baserunners,” Hillier said. “That’s the biggest thing that we did.”
Otero was charged with the loss in Sunday’s matchup, with sophomore David Torcise taking the loss Saturday and senior Greg Burke doing the same Friday.
“Whenever you struggle with your control and you pitch behind the count, you turn .300 hitters into .400 hitters,” Hillier said.
The Blue Devils also struggled to convert hits into runs, stranding 16 runners Friday, 11 Saturday and seven in Sunday’s game. “It just seemed like we couldn’t get a key hit,” Hillier said.
Two individual Duke hitters performed well offensively. After breaking a 12-game hitting streak in Wednesday’s loss to Elon, infielder Brett Bartles had six hits in 10 at-bats over the weekend. The freshman is averaging .483 and slugging over .600 this season. Murray went 4-for-5 in Friday’s game, including an RBI.
This weekend’s losses extend the Blue Devils’ losing streak against the Ramblin’ Wreck to 16 consecutive games.
“I told [the team], ‘Welcome to the ACC, guys,’” Hillier said. “There aren’t any easy weekends, that’s for sure.”