The weather reflected the Blue Devils’ fate Saturday afternoon, as sunny skies made way for storm clouds in a matter of minutes, just as a promising regular season flattened out at its end.
No. 12 Duke fell to No. 9 Miami 10-1 Saturday to end a decisive series as the Blue Devils were outscored 17-1 over the last 13 innings of the weekend, losing the series 2-1. The Hurricanes, who have punished opponents with 106 long balls this year, poured on three home runs in the game.
“We had a lot of guys going out there in matchup roles today, and the lightning delay didn't help us any because we were hoping to get two or three out of Higgins. With the delay we only got one,” head coach Chris Pollard said. “We were able to keep ourselves in the ballgame most of the way, and then Miami created some separation late. [Miami] popped a couple of balls out of the yard today, and that was the difference.”
The biggest home run for Miami came in the third inning, when a costly Duke (35-19, 16-13 in the ACC) error set the stage for a grand slam. After weather delayed the game for more than an hour, Pollard was forced to take out starting pitcher Ryan Higgins for freshman Edward Hart.
Hart, who had thrown just 11.2 innings coming into the game, gave up a leadoff single to junior CJ Kayfus. After a botched throw from first baseman MJ Metz to shortstop Alex Mooney put another runner on board, freshman Blake Cyr walked to load the bases. Moments later, junior Zach Levenson sent a ball over the fence in left center to give the Hurricanes an early 4-0 lead.
The Blue Devils chipped away at the deficit immediately, getting a run back in the top of the fourth. Junior Alex Stone extended his historic hitting streak to 28 games with a single to center, and an error by Miami put runners on the corners with no outs.
While freshman Tyler Albright was able to drive in Stone with a sacrifice fly, the lineup could not sustain a rally and reclaim momentum. Instead, the Hurricanes (37-18, 18-12) responded in the bottom of the fourth with another home run, this time a solo shot from Kayfus.
That was the story of the game for Duke, who repeatedly found itself with runners on base but could not find the same extra-base power that Miami could. While the Hurricanes had more than twice as many hits, 13 to the Blue Devils’ six, Duke stranded nine runners and Miami left on just four.
The team kept waiting for a big punch to bring it back into the game, but it never came. Instead, the Hurricanes delivered the knockout blow in the bottom of the seventh, with Cyr hitting a two-run shot to put the game out of reach.
On the other side of the ball, the Blue Devils were hampered by a taxed pitching staff. Friday’s game, which went to 11 innings after Duke blew an 8-3 lead, saw seven different pitchers take the mound. This meant that Pollard was forced to turn to players with less experience in conference play.
“We were obviously heading into today thin on the mound. We used our top guys out of the bullpen on Thursday and Friday,” Pollard said Saturday. “We were a pitch away from winning the series and then got pushed into extras and had to extend our bullpen even further.”
Miami punished sophomore David Boisvert, who was making his collegiate debut, for three runs on three hits in the eighth. While the Hurricanes were full of energy, the Blue Devils ended the game, and the regular season, on a low note.
However, Duke does not have much time to recoup, with the ACC tournament starting Tuesday. Saturday’s loss dropped the Blue Devils to the No. 5-seed, meaning that they now must win both of their pool play games to advance.
“Everybody from this point forward is 0-0. I think our guys will be really excited,” Pollard said about the postseason. “We have to get home and get rested up. I mean, the last couple of days took a lot out of us, so recovery and rest will be key so we can come out and play our best brand of baseball over the next few weeks.”
Duke’s opponent is N.C. State, who it did not face in the regular season, and an all-too-familiar foe, Miami. Both games will take place at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
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Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity first-year and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.