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Duke softball drops 2 out of 3 to in-state rival N.C. State

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

Jameson Kavel drove Duke's offense against Florida State.

It seemed as if the softball gods were slightly more focused on the Easter holiday than on giving Duke a win against its rivals. 

The Blue Devils took to the field at Duke Softball Stadium for senior day Sunday against N.C. State, dropping the rubber game of the series by a final of 5-4. Shelby Walters picked up the loss as Sydney Nester of the Wolfpack improved to 14-6 on the season with a win. Both pitchers took to the circle for their second game in two days, each looking to give their squad a win to conclude ACC play on a high note.

The previous day saw a doubleheader in which each side picked up a win, N.C. State took the first game by a low score of 2-1. Duke failed to get its bats going, recording only three hits on the day, whereas the Wolfpack left 10 stranded in a game they had many chances to win. The second contest of the day saw the tables turn, with the Blue Devils pouring on eight and holding their opponent to one in a blowout that saw Raine Wilson go yard twice. 

"The stage was set for a close game three," coach Marissa Young noted. “We’ve shown time and time again…we drop the first game [and] we are capable of coming back.” 

And come back they did, although maybe not in the way they wished to. Despite long breaks in scoring, short bursts by both teams provided almost all of the offense in the contest. A two-run bottom of the second was followed up by a five-run spurt by N.C. State, and the Blue Devil bats went silent until their last licks—the Easter Bunny had a field day putting up eggs on the scoreboard. Kristina Foreman led the rally in the bottom of the seventh, plating a pair with a single before the rally was ultimately snuffed out, and senior day ended without a Duke victory.

In the first, it seemed that for the second straight day, Nester would have the Blue Devils’ number. In the next inning, however, the middle of the lineup got the offense going for Duke (24-27, 11-10 in the ACC). Kristina Foreman sent a liner into right for a single, and Wilson drew a four pitch walk. Jameson Kavel took advantage of the only strike thrown her way to send one in the air to right, scoring Foreman on a sac fly. One more hit sent Wilson back to the dugout after touching the dish before Nester regained her control and sent the final two Duke batters down.

In the top of the next frame, the Wolfpack saw the Blue Devils’ two, and raised them three. Brianna Butler was pulled after giving up a moonshot off the bat of Brigette Nordberg. But Coach Young’s change could not stop the offensive tirade, as Shelby Walters gave up back-to-back jacks after her first pitch of the game was taken yard. April Visser’s bomb to right gave the Wolfpack (25-22, 6-12) took a 5-2 lead on the next at-bat. Mercifully, Walters settled in, striking out the seventh batter of the inning for the first out. The Cohutta, Ga., native sent the next two down as well, limiting the damage in an inning that could have put the game out of reach.

Walters continued her strong pitching, keeping the offensive threat from the Wolfpack to a minimum, and sending the Blue Devils to the bottom of the last still down only three, with one more chance to snatch the series from the grasp of their intrastate rivals. Marissa Gagliano walked and quickly stole second, and Deja Davis was not far behind her, taking the empty base with a four-pitch walk. A ground ball sent the runners to second and third, and Foreman blasted the ball in the gap for a single, scoring two. A near double play almost ended the game on the next batter, but a hustling Wilson beat out the throw at first.

Kavel stepped in with one on and two out, and worked the count to 2-2 before watching an inside fastball go by for strike three, stamping out the rally of the boisterous Duke squad, who were chanting from the bench right up until the final pitch.

“I think our sense of urgency has to be there right from the start,” noted Young postgame. “We’ve got to come out ready to go right from the gate.”

The Blue Devils will get their final chances in the regular season to do just that this week, with a game against East Carolina before an away series at No. 3 Florida State to finish off their campaign.


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