Ian Soileau/Chronicle File Photo
Jake Lemmerman slammed a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh Saturday to give Duke a 5-3 lead, which center fielder Will Piwnica-Worms preserved with an acrobatic catch to end the game, give the Blue Devils the series win over No. 8 Georgia Tech and send Duke into the ACC tournament with the No. 7 seed. With the win at Jack Coombs Field, Duke (34-22, 15-15 in the ACC) finished .500 in the league for the first time since 1994.
The Yellow Jackets (34-15-1, 17-10-1), which came into the rubber game in first place in the Coastal Division, got on the board first in the second inning, but the Blue Devils responded in the third, when senior catcher Matt Williams doubled in junior Alex Hassan. They added two more in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead with a Tim Sherlock RBI groundout and a Gabriel Saade RBI single, and freshman starter Eric Pfisterer made that lead stand up with 5.1 innings of 1-run ball.
Sophomore Dennis O'Grady, who earned the win, surrendered a two-run homer to Luke Murton in the seventh, but Lemmerman responded in the bottom half when he poked a first-pitch fastball to right field and let the wind carry it over the wall. O'Grady held the lead until just one out remained. He gave up consecutive singles to give Georgia Tech men on first and second with two outs, and head coach Sean McNally brought in junior reliever Michael Ness to get Murton for the last out. On the first pitch, Murton drilled a laser to center, but Piwnica-Worms got a beat on it and made the final out when crashing into the wall.
With Boston College's 8-1 loss to North Carolina, the Blue Devils secured the No. 7 spot and will play No. 2 North Carolina in their ACC tournament opener. Junior lefty Christopher Manno, who was beat up by the Tar Heels earlier this year, will start in the opener. He had been hot until losing Friday, while senior righty Andrew Wolcott, the Saturday starter, has been consistent all season with seven wins and a sub-3.0 ERA. Wolcott will get the nod in Duke's second game of the round-robin tournament. No. 3 Clemson and No. 6 Virginia round out Duke's division.
Saturday's victory also extends Duke's hopes of making its first NCAA tournament since 1961. In its latest regional projection, Baseball America had seven ACC teams in the field, with the seventh, Boston College, as a bubble team. Duke owns a better overall and conference record than the Eagles and beat them twice in a three-game series, but Duke's shortcoming is its RPI, which was No. 85 before Saturday. Boston College was No. 35. Duke could solidify its chances with at least one win in the ACC tournament, which is certainly possible--the Blue Devils won at least one game in every ACC series this year.
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