Coming off four straight wins, Duke could not wait to get back on the field for a three-game set against Virginia Tech.
While poor weather caused the Blue Devils to wait another day, Duke picked up right where it left off.
After rain postponed Friday’s game to a doubleheader Saturday at Jack Coombs Field, the competition went both ways, as each team was able to tack a win under their belts. It came down to a solid performance by the bullpen in the rubber match Sunday that gave Duke the final push to a series victory.
“What led us to winning the series without question was the unbelievable job out of the bullpen this weekend,” said Duke head coach Chris Pollard. “If you go back and look at the numbers, we went 15 in two thirds innings without giving up a run out of the bullpen this weekend.”
The Blue Devils (20-16, 8-10 in the ACC) did a solid job on the mound Sunday as they completely shut the Hokies down after the third inning. It was the combined efforts of senior Hunter Davis and sophomore Thomas Girard that held Virginia Tech scoreless in the last 6.2 innings. Not only did the Hokies go scoreless in the last two-thirds of the game, but Duke’s pitchers only allowed two hits in that time.
The performance also brought career highs for both pitchers. Davis pitched a season-high of 68 pitches in his career-high of 4.1 innings on the mound. He also notched four punchouts and just one hit. Girard came in at the last 2.1 frames and gave away the second of Virginia Tech's two hits en route to a career-high of six strikeouts.
Instead of losing confidence after a tie in the third inning, the Blue Devils were able to keep a positive mentality to get the job done.
“We’ve kind of adopted a saying as we started this run,” said Pollard. “We’re all gas and no break. I want our guys to compete with an edge and I thought we competed very well today.”
Although Duke completed the series with a win, Virginia Tech (21-16, 6-12) came off strong in the second game to even the series. The Hokies showed some strength on the mound and locked in a couple of insurance runs to secure the 6-2 victory.
“I was really impressed with Virginia Tech’s arms. To be honest with you their arms were a tick better than we thought they were going to be,” said Pollard. “They’re a very good team defensively so you see a lot of good arms and they don’t make very many mistakes defensively, so you really have to earn everything you get offensively.
Even though the Hokies already had a 4-0 lead by the fifth, the Blue Devils tried to fight back with two runs of their own. Freshman Ethan Murray broke the scoreless run with a RBI double to left center, bringing the game to 4-1. Sophomore Joey Loperfido followed suit and earned his team another run in his first triple of the season. After that however, the Hokies responded with a couple of runs and did a solid job defensively to finish the game 6-2.
Duke also owes this series win to an efficient performance in Game 1 that led to a 4-0 victory. Although the game was suspended on Friday afternoon due to lightning, the Blue Devils picked up where they left off at the bottom the fourth. A single by Murray gave Duke the early lead. The Blue Devils secured the win with three more insurance runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
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After another successful weekend for Duke, the Blue Devils are looking ahead to what a win against Virginia Tech will mean come tournament season.
“We’ve now won five out of our last six ACC games,” said Pollard. “It looks like depending on what happens with the Miami-Virginia series, it will put us in fourth place in the coastal division. Series wins over teams in your division are huge when it comes to ACC tournament seeding so today was a really big win to steal this series.”
The Blue Devils will be back at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park to take on Texas Tech in a mid-week game Tuesday. This will be a rematch for Duke after it lost to the Red Raiders in the Super Regional last June.