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Rain suspends finale as Duke splits with Tigers

The Blue Devils finished a wild weekend series with Clemson at Jack Coombs Field with a win, a loss and, surprisingly, a tie.

Duke (27-13-1, 6-13-1 in the ACC) dropped the series opener Friday 7-4 to the Tigers (19-20-1, 7-13-1) before rebounding Saturday to rout Clemson 10-1.

In the rubber game Sunday afternoon, the Blue Devils held a 6-2 lead heading into the ninth inning, but let it slip away as Tiger first baseman Ben Paulsen hit a two-out, two-strike, three-run home run to knot the game at six.

As the skies darkened over Durham in the top of the 11th inning, Clemson took an 8-6 advantage. But before Duke had its chance to bat in the bottom of the inning, the umpiring crew ordered the players off the field as lighting was spotted.

After trying to wait out the storm for nearly two hours, the umpiring crew assessed the condition of the field and decided to call the game. Since the Blue Devils had not been given a chance to hit in the 11th, the game reverted back to the score at the end of the 10th inning.

"It was a strange day," head coach Sean McNally said. "We're disappointed we could not close it out in the ninth."

After losing the opener Friday night, Duke got a much needed boost from sophomore starting pitcher Christopher Manno Saturday. Making his first ACC start of the season, the southpaw set a career high in strikeouts with 12, allowing no runs over five and two-thirds innings.

"Manno was terrific," McNally said. "He's been getting better and better as the season has gone along. We felt it was time to give him an opportunity to show what he could do in a weekend start, and he seized the opportunity."

Manno walked the first batter of the afternoon, but then went on an impressive run, striking out six consecutive Tigers.

With Duke up 2-0 in the fifth, junior first baseman Nate Freiman connected for his first of two home runs on the afternoon to put the Blue Devils up 3-0. In the following inning, Freiman knocked the Tiger starter out of the game by belting a two-run shot on the heels of catcher Matt Williams' bases-clearing double as Duke took a commanding 8-0 lead.

The home runs were Freiman's team-leading sixth and seventh of the year.

Duke continues ACC play next weekend against Maryland before hitting the road for its final two series with Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils are in the middle of a tight race for the final spots in the eight-team ACC tournament field. All three remaining opponents have similar records.

"We've got a lot to play for," McNally said. "We've proven we can hold our own against the ACC this season and we have a great opportunity to reach our goal of getting into the tournament in these next three series."


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