The Blue Devils returned from a week-long layoff due to final exams Sunday for a nonconference doubleheader.
Duke and Virginia Commonwealth split a pair of matchups at Jack Coombs Field with the Blue Devils taking the early battle by a score of 2-1 and the Rams coming away with a 5-3 victory in Game 2. Duke’s bullpen was lights out Sunday, allowing just two runs over a combined 10 innings, but it would not be enough for a series sweep.
VCU would strike first in the series with a sacrifice fly off Paul Witt's bat driving in Andrew Puglielli in the top of the third inning. That would be the lone blemish of graduate student Ben Gross’ performance, however, as Gross finished four strong innings before turning it over to the bullpen.
Gross’ teammates picked him up in the top of the fourth and would give him an opportunity to come away with his sixth win of the season. Duke (28-18) got a leadoff single from Kennie Taylor and a pair of walks from the Rams' starter set up a bases-loaded and no-outs situation. The Blue Devils would take advantage, scoring a pair of runs in the frame and concluding the offensive portion of the afternoon.
From there the bullpen took over. Bryce Jarvis notched five strikeouts in just 2 2/3 innings pitched and sophomore Thomas Girard added another 2 1/3 scoreless frames to lock down the win.
After being silenced in Game 1, VCU (32-16) came roaring out of the gates during the nightcap. Junior Bill Chillari allowed the first three Rams to reach base and all three would come around to score on a pair of singles later in the inning. Chillari would settle down and would not allow another run during his four innings on the mound.
Chillari’s stopgap would allow the Blue Devils to chip their way back into the contest. Freshman Ethan Murray led off the fifth with his first of three hits in the contest, and would provide Duke’s first run of the contest after scoring on a sacrifice from Joey Loperfido. A Kyle Gallagher deep fly in the sixth inning cut the deficit to 3-2, and Murray’s third base knock of the night—a two-out single in the bottom of the eighth—knotted the score.
Unfortunately for Duke, its streak of 16 scoreless innings out of the pen would be snapped at an inopportune time. A walk and hit-by-pitch to open the inning came back to bite freshman Jack Carey, as Logan Amiss’ pinch-hit two-run single gave the Rams a 5-3 advantage in the final frame. The Blue Devils were able to get the tying runner on base in the bottom half of the inning, but a strikeout from Matt Mervis forced Duke to settle for a split.
The Blue Devils will return to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park Wednesday for a midweek showdown with Liberty—the first of four consecutive at home—before closing their home slate with a three-game set against Georgia Tech beginning Friday.
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