Win or go home.
After No. 10-seed Coastal Carolina took Duke to a do-or-die rematch Monday, the Blue Devils took a commanding 12-3 win in the regional finale and are heading to the Super Regionals for the third time in six years.
“The mantra all week was: ‘we just want a chance to get one more week together,’” head coach Chris Pollard said. “That's what we've talked about, let's just put ourselves in a position to spend more time together. I'm happy we get to do that this coming week.”
Duke wasted little time to get ahead and blasted three home runs and tossed a one-hitter through eight innings en route to its doozy of a win at Springs Brooks Stadium in Conway, S.C. Starting pitcher Alex Gow shut down a Chanticleer lineup which had scored 10, 12, 13 and eight runs in its prior tournament games at its home park and a strong bullpen performance continued to lock up the Coastal Carolina bats as Duke kept piling it on.
Designated hitter MJ Metz, playing on a torn ACL, ignited the offense and continued his torrid stretch at the NCAA tournament by blasting his fourth home run of the regional against the Chanticleers’ southpaw Liam Doyle in the second inning.
A third-inning Alex Mooney hustle double on a rocket of a liner off the glove of shortstop Ty Dooley started up Duke’s next scoring opportunity — Andrew Fischer walked and knocked Doyle out of the game. Two batters later, catcher Alex Stone blasted a three-run homer to give Duke an early 4-0 lead.
The next inning, the bottom half of the Blue Devil lineup picked up a walk and two singles — including Luke Storm’s two-run scoring knock up the middle — followed by two more walks to load up the bases with none out. Coastal Carolina’s third pitcher of the inning, Levi Huesman, escaped the bases-loaded jam but his team was already down 6-0 with little offense to back him up as the Duke onslaught continued on.
However, in less-than-stellar news for the Blue Devils, star freshman slugger Fischer exited the game after striking out looking in the fourth inning, being replaced in the field by Cole Hebble. Earlier this season, he fractured his hamate and missed four weeks of action from April to May.
Gow was tabbed as the starter for the Blue Devils after he tossed 4.1 innings of three-run ball in Duke’s tournament opener against UNC Wilmington Friday. He gave up a lead-off walk to Peyton Eeles but quickly settled into a rhythm and the Kenyon transfer did not allow his only hit until the fourth inning. Gow finished his day after four crucial innings of one-hit, seven-strikeout ball and Duke cruising in front of a packed house of Chanticleer fans.
“Credit goes to [pitching coach Brady] Kirkpatrick, he calls great pitches,” Gow said.
“I looked at today as maybe the last chance I ever get to pick up a baseball, a uniform, and go compete and that means a lot to me,” Gow added.
Making his 37th appearance of the season, Charlie Beilenson came out of the bullpen for the fifth. Despite pitching in each of the Blue Devils’ previous three games in Conway, he looked sharp as ever, delivering two perfect innings to continue to squash any hope that was left in the Coastal Carolina dugout.
As the Chanticleer bats came up and sat back down, Duke put together five straight scoring innings. Giovanni GiGiacomo lined a wall-scraper down the line in left in the fifth, and the Blue Devils batted around in the sixth. Metz picked up two more RBI on a bloop single down the right field line and DiGiacomo added Duke’s 11th run with a single of his own. Every Blue Devil to get up to bat reached base, four batters finished with multiple RBIs and Metz finished a triple shy of the cycle.
“[Captains Alex Stone, Alex Mooney and Adam Boucher and transfers] really reestablished that culture of toughness around our program and that identity of toughness and and I'm so appreciative, so grateful to them for that,” Pollard said.
As the sun set on Conway and on the Chanticleers’ season, Fran Oschell III and Aaron Beasley combined to polish off Duke’s regional run while Chanticleer fans saluted their seniors walking off the field for the final time. Coastal Carolina, not going out quietly, ultimately broke up Duke’s shutout hopes with a three-run ninth.
Nevertheless, it was a special win for the Blue Devils, who missed the tournament a season ago in Pollard’s self-described “worst season” and were projected to finish near the bottom of the ACC this year — now they are one of the last 16 teams standing, a mere two wins away from the College World Series.
Duke heads up to Charlottesville, Va., to face No. 7-seed Virginia in the Super Regional this weekend. The Blue Devils took the series between the conference foes at Disharoon Park in April.
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Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.