Two outs, bases loaded, bottom of the 13th inning. Tie game. Freshman catcher Andrew Yu stepped up to the plate for Duke on an evening that had grown pleasantly cool, the afternoon heat having long since faded during this marathon of a game.
Yu watched the pitches go by. Ball one. Ball two. Ball three. A fourth pitch—low and away—and he took it. Ball four.
Duke had won 6-5 on a walk-off walk, ending a four-game skid in which the Blue Devils lost to Liberty the week prior before being swept by Miami in the weekend series.
“Going up to the plate, obviously just doing whatever I can, however I can get it done, to get that run in from third and win us the game,” Yu said. “So if taking four pitches is what that is, then that’s what it takes.”
After its Tuesday game against Davidson was postponed due to weather, Duke (13-16, 3-9 in the ACC) took the field on a Wednesday that felt more like summer than spring. The ensuing four-and-a-half hours would see the Blue Devils open up an early 5-1 lead that they clung to for dear life as they failed to score for nine innings straight.
Late in the game, solid pitching saved Duke from a fifth consecutive loss. Seven Blue Devils pitched Wednesday, and six relievers allowed only one combined run across more than eight innings.
“The biggest thing was making sure we didn’t extend anybody past the point where they wouldn’t be ready to go on Friday night [against Wake Forest],” head coach Chris Pollard said. “So that’s why we made some changes when we did. But really proud of how our guys stepped up and threw tonight."
Longwood (13-17, 5-1 in the Big South) opened the scoring in strange fashion in the top of the first, with outfielder Michael Peterson reaching home on a balk by Duke starting pitcher Cooper Stinson. In the bottom of the inning, third baseman Graham Pauley drove in Duke's first run on a double, the first of two hits he recorded Wednesday. Pauley then scored on a sacrifice fly from Chad Knight.
For a brief moment, it was off to the races for the Blue Devils.
Devin Obee’s two-run home run in the bottom of the second put the Blue Devils up 4-1. It was the freshman outfielder’s second home run in two games, and his third of the season. Sophomore first baseman Luke Storm added a solo shot in the third to make it a 5-1 ballgame.
Meanwhile, the Lancers’ bats fell temporarily silent—until the top of the fifth. Peterson drove in two runs on a double to left field before a single from Hunter Gilliam sent Peterson home to bring the game within one run.
Freshman Jonathan Santucci came in to relieve Stinson and recorded the final out to stop the bleeding. In the sixth, Santucci coolly sat down three batters in a row to prevent Longwood from regaining momentum.
The game went into the ninth with Duke still ahead 5-4. Senior Jimmy Loper recorded two outs before hitting Longwood’s Hayden Harris with a pitch and giving up a single to Peterson. Harris scored on a single from Gilliam before Loper notched a strikeout to close out the inning. The Blue Devils failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, and the game went on.
As extra innings rolled on, each team threatened to make things exciting before falling short. Longwood’s Keondre Shelton reached second base in the top of the 11th, but the Lancers left him and Harris stranded. Duke had runners on second and third in the 10th and loaded the bases in the 12th, employing sacrifice bunts in both instances.
By the time Yu was up in the 13th, it had become Duke’s longest game since a matchup with Wake Forest in 2018. Longwood had not scored since the ninth inning, and Duke had not scored since the third.
“We had ample opportunities with a runner in scoring position to win the ballgame, and we did it a little unconventionally there at the end after having multiple chances to do it conventionally,” Pollard said. “But at the end of the day, what matters is that we got it done.”
Offensive struggles similarly plagued the Blue Devils during their recent losing streak, with the team scoring just nine runs across those four games.
The Blue Devils head to Winston-Salem Friday for a three-game series against Wake Forest.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Matthew Griffin was editor-in-chief of The Chronicle's 116th volume.