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Duke softball takes 2 out of 3 against Virginia in Charlottesville

<p>Amelia Wiercioch has shown some flashes of brilliance from both the mound and the plate this year.</p>

Amelia Wiercioch has shown some flashes of brilliance from both the mound and the plate this year.

The Duke softball team is in just its second season, but one ACC school is likely tired of facing them already after dropping their second series in consecutive years against a young Blue Devils team.

After splitting the first two games of the weekend, Duke capped off its third ACC series of the year with a dominant 8-0 run-rule victory against Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. to push its program record to 5-1 against the Cavaliers. The Blue Devils continued their dominance of Virginia across the entire weekend, outscoring the hosts 16-4 to climb back above .500 in conference play. Duke responded well after a frustrating 2-1 defeat on Saturday in which the Blue Devils struggled to solve the Cavaliers’ Aly Rale, who tossed 5.1 scoreless innings in the best game of her young career. 

"We waited too long to get the sense of urgency going. We did a good job fighting at the end, but it was too little too late,” Duke head coach Marissa Young said after Saturday’s loss. “I think we have to do a better job of coming out and attacking early in the count, early in the game.”

The Blue Devils (14-18, 5-4 in the ACC) certainly heeded her words in the rubber match Sunday, jumping out to an early 4-0 lead in the first inning. Another freshman, Duke’s Kristina Foreman, also had a breakout performance, going 2-for-3 and setting a program record with five runs batted in in a single contest. She got the scoring started with a 2-RBI double in the first and put the game out of reach with a 3-run shot in the fifth. 

Foreman’s performance was encouraging for the Blue Devils particularly after another freshman, Deja Davis, turned out a stellar showing of her own in Duke’s defeat on Saturday. Despite the loss, Davis impressed at the plate and on the basepaths, going 2-for-4 and swiping her 17th bag of the year. 

“It’s been really good to see her finally starting to use all of her tools,” Young said of the rookie infielder. “Her power she can show at times, and once she gets on base she’s deadly.”

While the freshman performances were encouraging for a team looking to hit its stride in ACC play after getting off to a slow start against North Carolina two weeks ago, no group impressed more than the pitching staff this weekend. The Blue Devils staff scattered 14 hits across three games in addition to only giving up four runs. Half of Virginia’s offense for the entire weekend came in its win Saturday, a game in which Duke had chances to push more runs across on offense but couldn’t capitalize in the later innings. 

Amelia Wiercioch pitched a stellar 5.2 innings of relief on Saturday after Peyton St. George left after recording just one out, and Brianna Butler gave two strong performances, finishing the weekend with 7.1 innings pitched and giving up just two earned runs. Wiercioch also closed out Sunday’s win, tossing an inning of scoreless relief for Butler. 

At the plate, two Blue Devils continued a pair of impressive streaks over the weekend. Rachel Abboud singled in the first inning to push her streak of getting on base to 19 games, and Marissa Gagliano extended a seven-game hitting streak with one hit apiece in each game this weekend. Virginia (16-13, 5-4) had few problems with control on the mound, but struggled to miss Duke’s bats, surrendering at least six hits to the Blue Devils in every game of the series. 

For Duke, the trip up to Charlottesville was a great way to build momentum heading into this upcoming weekend’s series at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are tied with the Blue Devils in the ACC standings, so Duke has the opportunity to gain some ground on the conference leaders with a strong showing in Atlanta. 

“When we’ve come up short they’ve all been controllables on our end—pitch well from the start, make quality pitches, play good defense and swing our bats aggressively,” Young said. “The rest will take of itself. We can’t make any more of it, we just have to play good softball.”

Duke’s first game against Georgia Tech will be at 4 p.m. this Friday, followed by 1 p.m. contests Saturday and Sunday. 

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