The Blue Devils have been quietly gaining steam for weeks, but they earned national respect Saturday with a dominant performance against the consensus No. 1 team in the nation.
Duke scored nine runs in the first two innings and beat Miami 12-5, bouncing back from a 14-2 loss in Friday’s series opener and picking up its first win against a top-ranked opponent since 2009. Freshman Zack Kone went 5-for-5 and finished a double shy of the cycle to lead a Duke offense that smacked three home runs and eight extra-base hits.
Miami jumped in front with a two-run first inning after graduate student Trent Swart walked the bases loaded with two outs and surrendered a single up the middle to junior Willie Abreu, but Duke’s bats responded right away in the bottom of the frame.
Freshman Jimmy Herron led off with a single to extend his hitting streak to 10 games and classmate Chris Proctor singled to put two runners on with no outs. After a fly-out to center, sophomore first baseman Justin Bellinger drilled an RBI-double off the Blue Monster in left field, and sophomore Peter Zyla plated Proctor with a sacrifice fly to tie the score at two. Kone then hit a slow roller to second base and reached first safely with an infield single to put the Blue Devils ahead 3-2.
“That’s how you respond after a night like last night, especially after the top of the first when they scored the two runs,” Duke head coach Chris Pollard said. “To turn around and have the guts and the toughness to come back and string together the quality of at-bats that we strung together—a month ago, we were not tough enough to do that.”
The Blue Devils (20-16, 7-10 in the ACC) broke the game open in the second inning, scoring six runs, five of which came with two outs. Herron started the rally with an infield single on a swinging bunt that rolled about 10 feet in front of home plate, beating the throw from catcher Zack Collins and advancing sophomore Michael Smiciklas to third base.
“That was a really big moment in the game because we had two outs and they were about to get off the field right there,” Pollard said. “That’s what speed can do for you.”
Proctor scored Smiciklas with a single, and sophomore Jack Labosky drove in Herron and Proctor with a double down the left-field line. A four-pitch walk to Bellinger signaled the end of the afternoon for Hurricane starter Michael Mediavilla, who had the worst outing of his career with eight earned runs and took his first loss of the season after entering the game 6-0.
Freshman reliever Kevin Pimentel could not stop the bleeding right away, allowing back-to-back RBI triples to Kone and Zyla as Duke extended to lead to 9-2. Smiciklas—who led off the frame with a single—grounded out to Pimentel to end the inning.
Junior Cris Perez led off the third frame with a home run over the Blue Monster—his first hit in 20 at-bats—and Kone added his first career home run over the towering left-field wall in the fourth to give the Blue Devils a nine-run lead.
“It felt really great. I was kind of looking for a curveball because I knew he threw [them on the] first pitch, and it looked pretty good first pitch, so I looked for it and got it,” Kone said. “I was really excited just to win the game and be there for my team.”
Miami (28-5, 12-3) cut into the lead in the sixth inning when Willie Abreu hit a three-run home run deep to right-center field off graduate student Kellen Urbon—who threw 4 1/3 innings of long relief to get the win—but Labosky made a diving stop at third base on the next play with no outs to stop a bigger rally from developing.
“You think about 16 hits and all those home runs, but the play of the game for me may have been the play at third base by Labosky,” Pollard said. “They’ve got some momentum, and all of a sudden, they hit a ball that looks like it’s going through the hole, and Jack makes a tremendous play that kind of got our feet back underneath us.”
The Hurricanes did not have a hit the rest of the way, as Labosky pitched two shutdown innings to close the game, and they finished with just three hits all afternoon.
Labosky put an exclamation point on an impressive all-around performance in the eighth inning with a long home run off the grass underneath the metal bull overlooking the DBAP in left field to round out the day’s scoring.
Graduate student Brian McAfee will take the mound for the rubber match of the series Sunday at 1 p.m., with Duke looking to win a series against a ranked ACC opponent for the third straight weekend.
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