Duke baseball closes ACC tournament pool play with loss against Miami, awaits NCAA Selection Show

Luke Storm (34) scored two home runs in Duke's loss to Miami.
Luke Storm (34) scored two home runs in Duke's loss to Miami.

The last time the Blue Devils played the Hurricanes, lightning delayed the game before Miami pulled away 10-1. This time around, the Hurricanes were able to weather a two-home-run day from junior Luke Storm by pouring in three late runs.

In a game that meant nothing to either team’s future in the ACC tournament but held significant importance to each squad’s momentum, No. 5-seed Duke fell 7-6 to No. 4-seed Miami. The Blue Devils stood strong much of the game, but late-inning mistakes from the bullpen caused their second-straight one-run loss.

“I’m disappointed for our guys. They're fighting like crazy, playing in a lot of close ballgames, and kind of coming up on the wrong side of them,” head coach Chris Pollard said. “I'm proud of the way we're competing, we're a pitch away here or play there, we just got to find a way to the upside of it.”

Storm seemed to close the book in the afternoon in the top of the eighth inning, again coming through late for the Blue Devils after hitting a game-tying home run. After senior Chad Knight drew a two-out walk, the Duke first baseman hit a laser over the right field fence to give the Blue Devils a 6-4 lead.

That set the stage for freshman James Tallon to record his 11th save of the season. However, just as they did in the regular season, the Hurricanes got to the rookie southpaw, with junior CJ Kayfus and Golden Spikes semifinalist Yohandy Morales tagging him for two solo shots that tied the game at six. Tallon has been tasked with high-leverage outings all season, a job that can take a toll on a 19-year-old.

“I think [he’s] running on fumes. There's a lot of guys like that. That's just the reality of playing a bunch of young guys as much as we have,” Pollard said.

Two walks and a few pitching changes later, graduate student Aaron Beasley made a 1-2 mistake to sophomore Renzo Gonzales, who drove a single up the middle that put Miami ahead for good.

Duke was constantly under fire, and despite pitching well under pressure — the Hurricanes stranded 13 runners throughout the game — Miami took advantage of enough opportunities to win. 

One such moment came in the sixth, when a leadoff walk, a Kayfus single and clever baserunning put runners on second and third with no outs. Graduate student Charlie Beilenson, who pitched out of jams in the fourth and seventh, got a pivotal strikeout on sophomore Edgardo Villegas. Still, Morales came through with a single to score two and tie the game 4-4.

However, the game was not a one-sided affair. The Blue Devils came out ready to avenge their Tuesday loss to N.C. State and recent series loss to the Hurricanes, as Jay Beshears helped Duke get on the board in the first inning. The 6-foot-4 second baseman took the first pitch he saw over the left field fence to open a 1-0 lead.

Miami immediately found a response. Despite leading the ACC in home runs in the regular season, the Hurricanes manufactured two runs in the bottom of the first through small ball; a lead off bunt that was mishandled by Storm at first, two singles and a passed ball put Miami ahead 2-1.

Storm tied the game a few innings later with a home run, and junior Alex Stone extended his hitting streak to 30 games with a solo blast of his own. Although the Blue Devils found success at the plate, they had a harder time with runners on base, going just 2-for-12.

Looking at the larger picture, timely hitting and a solid bullpen are absolute needs for Duke moving forward. While their run at the ACC tournament is over, the Blue Devils await their NCAA tournament draw, to be announced during Monday’s Selection Show.

Pollard has spoken all season about the team’s resilience, and it will rely on that to succeed at regionals.

“They forged a toughness because of the way they bonded [with] each other,” Pollard said. “If any group has an opportunity to bounce back after a couple of tough one-run losses in this tournament, it's this group of guys.”

Dom Fenoglio | Sports Managing Editor

Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity sophomore and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


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