Errors continued to plague the Duke baseball team in Wednesday’s contest against Elon University.
But this time, instead of physical errors, it was mental errors that head coach Bill Hillier cited as his team’s downfall.
“I tell my guys that physical errors will cost you a base, but mental errors will cost you a game,” Hillier said.
Coming off a 2-1 series win over Army last weekend, the Blue Devils (6-8) dropped a pair of games to the Phoenix (9-4) Wednesday, including the conclusion of a Feb. 23 game started at Elon that was postponed in the ninth inning because of darkness.
The Phoenix defeated Duke, 4-0, in the day’s regularly scheduled contest with the help of a stellar outing by Elon starting pitcher Patrick Adams. The freshman threw 10 strikeouts and allowed no runs in seven innings of work to earn the first win of his college career.
“You’ve got to give [Adams] credit,” Blue Devil shortstop Adam Murray said. “He was mixing speeds very well, and that’s the name of the game, to keep hitters off-balance. He did a good job of that today.”
Ryan Sember threw for 4.2 innings in his first start of the season for Duke. The junior notched two strikeouts but gave up six hits and three earned runs.
“It’s been a long time since Sember’s been able to go out there and give us some innings because he’s had a couple surgeries,” Hillier said. “Because of his surgeries, it’s hard for him to keep his arm loose, but I thought he did a great job for us.”
Sember’s pitching effort was not enough for Duke, as the Phoenix scored the only run they would need early. In the second inning, Sember gave up a lead-off walk to catcher Drew Davis, and designated hitter Chris Vasami advanced the runner with a sacrifice bunt. Right fielder Matt Stocco singled to leftfield to score Davis and give Elon the 1-0 lead.
Despite posting six hits in the game, Duke was unable to convert offensive production into runs.
The Blue Devils’ best chance to retaliate came in the bottom of the fifth. Trailing 3-0, Duke opened the inning with back-to-back singles by leftfielder Cody Wheeler and second baseman Bryan Smith. Catcher Ron Causey followed with a sacrifice bunt, advancing both runners into scoring position. Centerfielder Jimmy Gallagher then drew a walk to load the bases.
The Blue Devil rally fizzled, however, as third baseman Kyle Kreick struck out looking on the next at-bat. Murray grounded out to third to end the inning.
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“I think that we shot ourselves in the foot a lot today,” Murray said. “We are not putting ourselves in positions to be successful. That includes walking batters, that includes striking out looking, that includes making errors in the field.”
Similar problems kept Duke from capturing a win in the conclusion of its Feb. 23 contest, which was tied 8-8 when play resumed. Elon scored the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning.
Blue Devil pitcher Jimmy Gallagher issued consecutive walks to Vasami and Paul Bennett, after which pinch hitter Danny Miller singled through the right side to bring home Vasami and end the game.
In the top of the 11th inning, Duke had managed to advance Gallagher to second with one out, but a Murray strike-out and a Javier Socor ground-out sent the Blue Devils back to the dugout without a run.