Kristina Foreman, Caroline Jacobsen and Jameson Kavel combined for a .579 OBP, 10 extra-base hits and 19 RBI, while Shelby Walters and Peyton St. George allowed four runs across 25 innings, and the Blue Devils swept their first full ACC series in dominating fashion.
It was clear from the first action Friday evening that No. 20 Duke was going to embarrass Virginia across the four-game series at Duke Softball Stadium. The only question was how badly. This was, after all, the Blue Devils’ first series without senior captain and star third baseman Raine Wilson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury after a misplanted step on first base last Sunday.
“We miss [Wilson] in the heart of the lineup, as far as run production. And also just her leadership and ability to be the voice of reason with the team on the field and also in our huddle,” head coach Marissa Young said. “I think she's our vocal leader of all our captains, so her lack of presence is definitely felt. But I feel like the kids did a good job of just playing for her this weekend, and kind of stepping up to fill in in those spots.”
Wilson’s direct replacement in the lineup this weekend was Kamryn Jackson, a sophomore third baseman. She filled in at designated player in each of the first three games of the series, pushing Foreman to second base and nudging Gisele Tapia across the diamond to third.
But Jackson didn't record a hit against the Cavaliers, and the less-than-ideally-arranged Duke (19-1, 8-1 in the ACC) infield had a less-than-ideal defensive weekend, combining for three errors.
“I think Kristina's been doing a really good job for us this year at second base. And Tapia has a lot of experience there in her [time] prior to coming to Duke,” Young said. “So rather than moving two people into different positions, keep Kristina at two and move Tapia over to three.”
Softball is not, of course, a one-dimensional game, so Foreman's 7-for-12 offensive line with two home runs, multiple stolen bases and seven RBI made allowing a few hits up the middle forgivable.
Duke’s outfield defense remains nothing to worry about. Kendyl Lange made her first starts of the season against the Cavaliers, patrolling left field for the Saturday doubleheader and Sunday matinee. The senior outfielder, who’s spent time in center and left for the Blue Devils, missed the team’s first 15 games on account of injury, but figures to be the team’s starting left fielder and a presence atop the lineup if she can repeat last year’s .417 OBP and .423 SLG performance.
To Lagne’s left stood centerfielder Kavel and right fielder Jacobsen, both excellent fielders. The pair joined Foreman in making up for Wilson’s production, with Kavel and Jacobsen each going 5-for-12 with six RBI apiece.
Duke’s defense was certainly good enough to hold Virginia (6-13, 2-11) to just 10 total hits across Games 1, 2 and 4 of the series, including a Walters perfect game bid in Game 2 that lasted 4.2 innings. The defensive performance allowed the Blue Devils to outscore the Cavaliers 16-4 in those three games.
Game 3 on the other hand, was a barnburner of an instant classic. Brianna Butler didn’t have her best stuff that day, and allowed three home runs in 1.1 innings. Claire Davidson, Walters and St. George did just enough in 7.2 innings of relief, however, for the offense to claw out of the 6-1 deficit. The Blue Devils entered the bottom of the seventh inning down one, before a leadoff homer from Foreman sent it to extras.
Twelve batters came up to bat between both teams in the eight and ninth inning, none scoring, before Jacobsen in the home ninth. She ripped at the first pitch she saw, took off out of the box and pointed ecstatically at the ball flying over the straightaway centerfield fence.
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“I don't know where that [pointing] came from, it kind of came out of nowhere,” Jacobsen said. “But I guess it turned into a pretty cool video.”
Duke travels to Elon for a mid-week game, before hosting Syracuse next weekend.
“I think for a team's confidence, to know that we can win in so many different ways, is really important,” Young said of the Virginia series. “And I always said this to the team: [Past Duke teams] have been in games like this, and maybe things didn't work out in our favor, and to be able to come from behind, or even give up a couple of runs early-on and be able to fight back, it gives us confidence to know we don't have to be up from the start and run rule every time to win a ballgame.”