After taking the series with Virginia Tech last weekend, Duke returned home looking for similar success against the Hokies in-state rival this weekend.
The Blue Devils closed out a three-game sweep against Virginia with a 5-1 victory Sunday afternoon at the Duke Softball Stadium. The Blue Devils are looking the strongest they’ve been all season and with a doubleheader and one more home game to go before its first ever ACC tournament, the team hopes to take this momentum and close out its inaugural season with a bang.
“It’s huge for us,” Duke head coach Marissa Young said. “We were really trying to build momentum, continue getting better at the end of the season and take that into the ACC tournament, which is great for us. I think we’ve kind of found a groove, and the girls are excited. It’s the end of the year and they’re just playing their hearts out at this point in the season.”
Duke (29-23, 13-11 in the ACC) battled Friday evening to edge the Cavaliers by a score of 3-2. The Blue Devils made quick work in the first inning with Rachel Abboud crossing the plate on a Virginia error. After the Cavaliers tied it up, the Blue Devils got back on top with a Katherine Huey homer in the fourth inning—her third of the season—following her two strikeouts on the mound.
The game seemed as if was going to go into extra innings, with the score knotted 2-2 as the Blue Devils approached the seventh inning. However, closing pitcher Peyton St. George struck two out in the top of the seventh and then hit the walk-off single—one of nine Blue Devil hits on the day—to win the team the game.
“Peyton has settled in as that closer for us,” Young said. “Amelia and Kat get the starts and they do as much as they can for as long as they can, and Peyton comes in and closes.”
The following day, Duke made much quicker work of its ACC foes, coming away with a 9-1 run-rule victory. This victory gave the Blue Devils three straight ACC series wins for the first time in its young program’s history. The day showed success across the lineup, with seven of the 11 players who had at-bats contributing a hit to the nine the team totaled over four and a half innings.
Jill Ferraro and Dominique Salinas each had two hits, while Raine Wilson and Rachel Abboud contributed two runs each. Amelia Wiercioch gave up four hits and one run on the mound, and St. George closed the game for the Blue Devils with no runs and a strikeout.
On the final day of the series, Ferraro was honored as the team’s lone senior. While the Blue Devils were not able to score in the first, runs in the next three innings led them to a 5-1 win over Virginia (12-29, 3-21).
Jameson Kavel had an RBI single in the second to put the Blue Devils on the board, followed by a monster triple by Wilson in the third that drove in two, putting her in scoring position. Wiercioch then took the plate and drove her home.
“Our kids, these last couple series, have a done a really good job of hitting with runners in scoring position,” Young said. “That’s been a big focus for us.”
While the Cavaliers were able to get one back in the fourth, Duke answered with one of its own when Salinas hit one up the middle to drive in it’s fifth and final run of the game. The last two innings proved uneventful, with Ferraro exiting the field in the seventh to a standing crowd.
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“One game at a time,” Young’s said her message to the team was. “Enjoy playing this time of year. Enjoy every opportunity to be out there, put on the uniform, and play together.”
Following Sunday’s win, the Blue Devils will face Longwood in Farmville, Va., in a doubleheader on Saturday at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. They will then close out their regular season the following afternoon against Campbell at home.