After trailing late in all three games, the Blue Devils wrapped up a thrilling weekend sweep of Notre Dame at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park Sunday.

The No. 13 Blue Devils trailed 4-1 with just three outs remaining in the series opener Friday night, but rallied to win 5-4 before a 6-3 victory Saturday and a 16-4 win Sunday that featured a 12-run eighth inning put an exclamation point on the weekend. It was Duke’s first sweep in a three-game ACC series since 2014. 

With the Blue Devils’ backs against the wall entering the ninth inning Friday night, their veteran lineup could not be counted out. A combination of five singles and a walk tied the game for Duke, sending senior outfielder Michael Smiciklas to the plate with two outs and a Blue Devil on every base. 

Notre Dame head coach Mik Aoki elected to put the game in the hands of freshman southpaw Tommy Vail in an attempt to silence the rally. But on only the second pitch of the at-bat, the veteran prevailed. Vail plunked Smiciklas in the back on a sailing fastball, sending the Duke dugout into pandemonium and giving the Blue Devils an unconventional walk-off victory. 

“We had been stymied for eight innings. Their starter, [Scott] Tully, threw a tremendous ballgame and kept us off balance. For eight innings, we just couldn’t solve them,” Duke head coach Chris Pollard said. “They put in their closer...and we just had really good at-bats. Kennie Taylor started it off with a single, and from there we just kept following it up with good at-bats.”

Seven different batters recorded singles for the Blue Devils in the game, and Matt Mervis picked up his third win of the season out of the bullpen. 

Duke didn’t skip a beat in game two, striking first off a pair of Notre Dame errors and hits from Chris Proctor and Zack Kone to take an early 2-0 lead. The Fighting Irish (11-14, 4-6 in the ACC) quickly responded after a leadoff double off the bat of Nick Podkul followed by an RBI single from Matt Vierling. Blue Devil senior Mitch Stallings was tagged for two more in the sixth following a go-ahead home run from Eric Gilgenbach, who leads his club with five homers on the season. 

For the second time in as many days, Duke (24-5, 9-3) entered the late innings on the wrong end of the scoreboard, this time trailing 3-2. After another crucial hit-by-pitch taken by Smiciklas to lead off the bottom of the seventh, Jimmy Herron, hitting .295 on the year, roped a single through the left side to put runners on first and second with nobody out. 

The big swing came off the bat of senior Jack Labosky, who connected on a three-run home run to dead center field, giving the Blue Devils the lead.

Labosky’s stellar night did not end there, though, as he took the mound in the eighth and pitched two innings of hitless baseball to put the game on ice after impressive play at third base in the first seven frames.

“He is having an unbelievable season defensively at third base. He makes plays seemingly every game that are really high-level advanced defensive plays at the college game look very routine,” Pollard said. “He’s come up with several clutch hits and home runs. There are home runs, and then there are home runs. That came at a huge spot for us, and he’s been lights out from the pen.”

Pollard and the Blue Devils completed the sweep Sunday afternoon after coming back from a 3-1 deficit with three runs in the sixth and 12 runs on eight hits in a 45-minute bottom of the seventh. The slugfest was highlighted by a bases-clearing triple from Chris Proctor and nine two-out runs. 

Pollard attributed a large part of the lineup’s success to its ability to get to Notre Dame’s bullpen, which featured seven different relief pitchers in Sunday’s contest.

“One of the things that we talked about in our pregame meeting today was that we felt like we had had really good at-bats against their bullpen,” Pollard said. “They’ve got some really good young arms down there, but for whatever reason, we had seen the ball well, so we talked about the importance of getting to their bullpen early, and that seemed to play itself out today.”

Duke will play two midweek games against Richmond and Campbell this week before visiting Wake Forest for a series next weekend.