In a series marked by alternating shutouts, the Blue Devils rallied for the rubber match victory after being upset Saturday afternoon.
The ninth-ranked Blue Devils took the weekend series against Syracuse with a dominant 6-0 win Sunday at Skytop Softball Stadium. Commanding pitching spanned all weekend as Duke continued to chug along toward a top position in the conference, though the Orange refused to be fully upstaged in Upstate New York.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t get the sweep—dropping [Saturday’s] game was a tough one, but I was really pleased to see them bounce back [Sunday] and play a lot more like ourselves,” head coach Marissa Young said.
Sunday’s affair started off with some signature Duke softball—aggressive baserunning and strategic use of the entire lineup’s skills had the Blue Devils (36-7, 16-3 in the ACC) on the board first on a Francesca Frelick squeeze bunt. Two batters later in the second inning, junior center fielder Kamryn Jackson mashed a home run to dead center to make it 3-0 and all but secure the win.
“We get production from different folks in different places and the top part of our lineup struggled a little bit and the bottom really picked them up for us,” Young said.
The top of the lineup, led by recently-announced Collegiate Player of the Year finalist Jameson Kavel, certainly struggled over the weekend, as the Duluth, Ga., native and .389 hitter went 0-for-14 in the team’s past four games, which also includes an 8-3 loss Wednesday at Liberty.
Pitcher Peyton St. George made sure to pick up some of the slack as well by churning out another masterful 11 innings of shutout ball against the Orange (21-20, 4-15) in the series’ opening and closing games.
The icing on the cake of the series-deciding game was a sixth-inning parade at the plate, in which the Blue Devils batted around, scored three more runs and threatened to add more, all with two outs. Sarah Goddard, Taylor Krapf and Leah Jarnac all got in on the action off the bench in the ceaseless sixth that nearly put Duke over the run-rule threshold.
Giving St. George some rest, Young opted for sophomore Claire Davidson to close out the afternoon with one of the finest performances of her young career.
“I definitely think the success she's having offensively has helped translate into her in the circle as well,” Young said of her burgeoning two-way star. “I think she's really good coming in in relief and attacking the zone and getting hitters out.”
It only took 25 pitches for the Florida native—who is also batting .354 with five home runs—to get the final nine outs of the game. In the absence of senior pitcher Shelby Walters, Davidson has played exceptionally well in relief as she leads the team with a .169 opponents’ batting average in her 38 innings of work. The Duke pitching staff held Syracuse to just 10 hits in the three-game set.
The highlight of the afternoon came when left fielder Kyla Morris dove at full speed into the chain-link fence in foul ground to record the out on a fly ball tailing out of play. With broken sunglasses and a mark on her forehead from the collision, her head coach called her a “trooper” and noted that she “lives for those catches.”
While Friday saw the Blue Devils put on a similarly dominant pitching masterpiece with five runs of offense to back it up, Saturday posed an unfamiliar challenge for the team. Having gone undefeated against conference opposition since March 25, Syracuse’s pitchers did just enough to overcome Duke sophomore Jala Wright’s solid outing.
Wright—who tossed six innings while only allowing two hits—ran into an unforgiving Syracuse third inning which led to the contest’s only run crossing the plate. A wild pitch followed by a Kristina Foreman error scored the unearned run in front of a Duke team trying to breathe life into its own bats. Shut out for the first time since their NCAA Regionals loss to Georgia last May, the Blue Devils were able to bounce back heading into the extended break.
Duke next heads to Buies Creek, N.C., to play Campbell May 3 before wrapping up the regular season at home against Pittsburgh.
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Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.