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St. George deals second-straight shutout as Duke softball downs Liberty to advance to regional final

Peyton St. George followed up her Friday one-hitter with another shutout Saturday.
Peyton St. George followed up her Friday one-hitter with another shutout Saturday.

Fourteen innings of NCAA tournament action are in the books and Duke refuses to let that zero in the “runs allowed” column budge.

With the Blue Devils playing as the road team on their home turf, pitcher Peyton St. George delivered another shutout as Duke advanced to the regional final with a 5-0 win against Liberty Saturday afternoon at Duke Softball Stadium. St. George’s back-to-back gems put her team in prime position to advance to the super regionals, with the Blue Devils needing a single win Sunday to send head coach Marissa Young’s team to uncharted territory yet again.

“I am as proud of my team today as I've been all year with their resilience and adjustments when they don't have a great day,” Young said about bouncing back from a slow offensive start to the tournament Friday. 

Saturday’s win did feature a resurgent offense keyed by senior Deja Davis, but two things were constant from Friday: scorching heat and electrifying stuff from the Blue Devils’ number 10. 

St. George, pitching on back-to-back days as expected come tournament time, did not let the near-record temperatures and her 102 pitches Friday slow her down entering Duke's second game of the regional. After walking the first batter of the game, the Mechanicsville, Va., native allowed just two hits through five dominant innings. 

“It feels really good just knowing that I'm able to do this because of what I've been doing all year,” St. George said. 

Ahead 5-0 and set up more comfortably by her offense than she was Friday, St. George ran into some trouble in the sixth when the Flames loaded up the bases on three singles with just one out. A short fly to center field had the runners stay put before pinch hitter Alexis Soto went up to bat with a chance to reshape the trajectory of the ballgame. St. George gave it her all, prevailing on a high heater that froze the Liberty batter.

“In those moments, you gotta love the game and love the pressure,” St. George said.

She echoed the familiar message from her coaches to “stay calm, not make it bigger than it is and just have fun.”

The graduate student finished off her second-straight complete-game shutout with a one-hit seventh, earning her a new program-record 22nd win of the season and becoming the first Duke pitcher to toss a complete-game shutout in back-to-back games. 

“To have [Duke] shut out [its opponents] in the postseason—I'll take it all day long,” Young remarked.

St. George clearly rebounded well and entered Saturday in stride compared to when she got roughed up by the Flames in a loss in April.

Though St. George closed it out unscathed, the five runs on the board for Duke made the difference and gave her a necessary cushion. Having already faced the Flames in Lynchburg, Va., the Blue Devils' lineup was prepared for what Liberty ace Emily Kirby was going to have in store. A quick first inning showed that Jameson Kavel, Davis and company still may not have been making the best pitch selection, a concern Young voiced postgame Friday. But a second inning riddled with Liberty errors that set up two Duke runs gave the offense a lead and got Kirby out of the game. 

By the fourth inning, facing Liberty’s Karlie Keeney, the Blue Devils were rolling. Already up 3-0 and with St. George cruising as well, Duke sent hard-hit balls in play nearly every at-bat. With two out in the frame, Kavel and Davis smacked back-to-back home runs to left and right-center field, respectively. 

“It's really just narrowing the zone and at that point, you're hitting your pitch, not [the pitcher’s] pitch and so seeing that inside ball and just going like ‘that's my pitch to hit,’” Davis said of her approach to her fourth-inning at-bat.

Starting in the designated player role after not falling in the starting lineup the day before, Davis shined with a 2-for-4 afternoon with two runs scored. Her afternoon was supplemented by both right fielder Caroline Jacobsen and catcher Francesca Frelick’s two-hit games as the Blue Devils advance to face an opponent to be determined.

Unlike a year ago, when the Blue Devils still had a 12-inning marathon against Western Kentucky to win before earning a spot in the regional title game, the Blue Devils now get to rest while Liberty awaits either Georgia or UMBC in Saturday’s late-night affair in Durham.

“Just knowing that this game was super important and kind of a stepping stone from last year really puts us in a good position to win tomorrow,” St. George said. 

That milestone of entering the title game unbeaten may be underappreciated, but now the team is ready to “treat every game like every other game, even though we know that there's more on the line,” in the words of Young.

Sunday's title game will be at 2 p.m. against the winner of the final game of Saturday's slate.


Micah Hurewitz | Sports Managing Editor

Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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