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Duke softball falls to Coastal Carolina due to lack of timely hitting

<p>Jameson Kavel drove Duke's offense against Florida State.</p>

Jameson Kavel drove Duke's offense against Florida State.

After taking its first series against an ACC opponent this season, Duke looked to ride its momentum into a tough nonconference matchup.

However, the Blue Devils could not keep up with Coastal Carolina, as Duke lost 11-4 Tuesday afternoon at the Duke Softball Stadium. The Chanticleers benefitted from two home runs, including a grand slam in the top of the third and a three-run bomb in the sixth inning. The Blue Devils' nine hits nearly matched Coastal Carolina's 10, but they were unable to convert and left eight runners on base.

“I really think it came down to us not throwing strikes,” head coach Marissa Young said. “Once you walk a few people and you have bases loaded, you feel like you have to put the ball over the plate and that’s when that happens. Our pitchers just have to learn from that.” 

The first inning started out strong for Duke (12-16), opening up the scoring on a sacrifice fly from freshman Kristina Foreman. A line-out and pop-up off the bats of Raine Wilson and Caroline Jacobsen stranded two Blue Devils, limiting the offensive damage. 

The Chanticleers (23-6) bounced back in the second inning, opening up with a full-count double to right field. An error put another player on first with no outs, and a fielder’s choice gave Coastal Carolina its first run of the game. A bases-loaded walk from the Blue Devil pitcher Shelby Walters plated the second. 

Duke was unable to respond in the bottom of the second, getting stung by a line-drive double play. Walters continued to struggle with her control, as the third inning opened with Walters hitting a batter, walking a second and a fielding error that loaded the bases with no outs. Walters then walked another batter in, giving the Chanticleers the 3-1 lead. 

The next at-bat, Coastal Carolina pounded a grand slam to left field over the head of Wilson. Peyton St. George entered the game in relief, finishing the inning with the help of another pick-off at second from catcher Jazmine Moreno. The pick-off marked Moreno's 11th of the season, which leads the ACC. 

“It was great to see Peyton. She hasn’t thrown in a few games so for her to come in and dominate the way she did, that was great,” Young said. “Jaz continues to throw people out and she’s done that great all year, which definitely helps us out.” 

Duke got two runs back in the bottom of the third off a single from Jameson Kavel and another RBI from Foreman. The RBI marked Foreman’s 18th of the season, which currently leads the team. 

Wilson then hit an infield single and Jacobsen set up a sac-fly to score Kavel and cut Coastal Carolina’s lead to four. Jacobsen recorded her third multi-RBI game of the year with a single up the middle in the fifth to cut the game to 7-4. 

“We gave up the grand slam in the third and our though process was that we have four innings to chip away and get that back a little bit at a time,” Young said. “It was good to see them bounce back and get a few in that third inning and they were just determined to get a few each time.”

The Chanticleers responded in the sixth inning to crush the Blue Devil momentum, scoring four runs on four hits that included a three-run home run to left field. Coastal Carolina only allowed three more baserunners for the bottom two frames, sealing the victory. 

Freshman Deja Davis stole her 16th base of the season, matching the program-high mark set by Kavel during Duke’s inaugural season. Davis and Abboud also both extended their career-high streaks of games where they reached base safely.  

“DJ puts things in motion. I think the opposing team is always anticipating when she is going to run but even when they know it’s coming, she’s that quick,” Young said. “It’s a game changer for us from that standpoint and then defensively, it enables her to get to a lot of balls.” 

The Blue Devils will hit the road to face another South Carolina opponent, this time going up against the No. 16 Gamecocks in Columbia, S.C., Wednesday night. South Carolina fended off a Duke threat in the Puerto Vallarta Challenge earlier in the season, narrowly beating the Blue Devils 3-2. Duke now looks for revenge against a top-25 opponent. 

“Obviously, we love playing top-25 teams. We’re hoping to get a win against them,” Young said. “We know we were just a few inches away the last time so we’re hoping to come out on top tomorrow.” 

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