No. 19 Virginia pounds out 26 runs Saturday and Sunday to take 2 of 3 from Duke baseball

<p>Junior Jack Labosky had a big weekend at the plate, but the Blue Devils could not keep Virginia’s high-powered offense contained Saturday and Sunday.</p>

Junior Jack Labosky had a big weekend at the plate, but the Blue Devils could not keep Virginia’s high-powered offense contained Saturday and Sunday.

There were three walks, two singles, one hit batter and a wild pitch leading to five runs.

That was the ugly line recorded by Duke pitchers in the bottom of the first inning Sunday afternoon. And despite a season-best scoring outburst to begin the weekend, the Blue Devils could not sustain their offensive performance, dropping their second ACC series in as many weekends.

Playing true road games for just the second time all season, Duke took the opening contest 19-3 against No. 19 Virginia before the Cavaliers’ steady offense wore down the Blue Devils’ limited pitching staff in the final two games en route to a pair of 13-6 victories at Davenport Field in Charlottesville, Va. Duke slugged its way through the weekend with six home runs, including two apiece from junior Jack Labosky and sophomore Griffin Conine.

But after junior Mitch Stallings kept the ACC’s second-best offense quiet Friday as his team erupted for its biggest ACC blowout since 1983, Virginia exploited a pair of Blue Devil freshmen on the hill during the last 18 innings.

“It’s no secret that we’re pitching a lot of young guys and we started two freshmen on the weekend,” Duke head coach Chris Pollard said.” In ACC play, there is a learning curve and there is a learning curve on the road. We ran up against a good offense—guys have to learn and grow from that.”

The Cavaliers (19-6, 4-5 in the ACC) found consistency in the middle of their order, as junior Adam Haseley tallied six hits in 10 at-bats, racking up six runs and five RBIs in addition to throwing six innings of four-run ball on Sunday to earn his fourth win of the season.

With the Blue Devils (13-13, 4-5) missing a pair of key pitching pieces—junior starter Ryan Day and reliever Al Pesto were unavailable for the series—Virginia was able to jump on Adam Laskey and Graeme Stinson early in both of its wins, scoring eight runs in the first three innings Saturday and notching five first-inning runs in the series finale.

“Guys have had flashes,” Pollard said. “We’ve had a lot of guys you can point to down in the bullpen that have had good outings. It’s about developing consistency and developing a regular rotation we feel comfortable with.”

After scoring more than 10 runs just once this season entering the weekend, the Blue Devils erupted for 10 in the first three innings of the series opener. Labosky’s two homers—both three-run shots—came in his first two at-bats, and Duke stayed at it throughout the night.

As the Blue Devils tallied a season-best 26 hits Friday, including eight extra-base knocks, they gave Stallings a chance to turn in his best performance as a Duke starter. After spending his first two seasons in a Blue Devil uniform as a closer, the Atlanta native has settled into his new role as Duke’s ace.

Stallings’ seven innings of three-run ball with a pair of strikeouts appeared to set the tone for a weekend that could finally point the Blue Devils in the right direction after a roller-coaster start to the 2017 campaign.

Instead, it was another letdown for a team looking to return to the NCAA tournament after snapping a 55-year drought last spring.

“The quality of the pitching [in the ACC] is such that you’re not going to have that type of offense routinely—nobody does,” Pollard said. “Our offense is improving.... It’s beginning to click. We’re driving the baseball.”

Although Duke recorded 12 runs on 19 hits in its two losses, the Cavaliers more than doubled the visitors’ output with 26 runs on 34 hits.

The Blue Devils did not suffer from the self-inflicted wounds that hurt them in previous games, however. Duke walked just seven batters combined Saturday and Sunday, tossed just three wild pitches and did not commit an error.

Still, Virginia pounded the Blue Devils with its bats. On Saturday, Laskey made it through only three innings and needed 70 pitches to do so. The 6-foot-3 southpaw surrendered 10 runs on 12 hits, sending his ERA soaring to 6.59 for the season.

And Sunday, after a two-run blast by Conine and a solo shot from Michael Smiciklas put the Blue Devils up 3-0 through half a frame, the Cavaliers came right back.

Virginia scored a pair and loaded the bases against Stinson in the bottom of the first without making an out before the Duke freshman was sent to the showers. Yet the Blue Devils hung around, pulling to within a pair in the eighth following a fourth-inning RBI double by Max Miller and then another run from Labosky on a wild pitch.

But with six runs on six hits—including an RBI single by Haseley and a two-out, two-run triple by second baseman Andy Weber—the Cavaliers slammed the door on a possible Duke comeback.

Now, with five games in the next seven days, the Blue Devils will have plenty of innings to figure out how they will right the ship on a season that is nearly halfway through and looking less and less like a postseason return.

“This week provides a tremendous opportunity for guys to step up,” Pollard said. “It’s going to be a lot of innings up for grabs, a lot of at-bats up for grabs, and guys are going to have to step up. We are who we are.”

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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