Duke baseball overcomes late deficit to narrowly take game 1 of Super Regional series against Virginia

Luke Storm's hit in the top of the eighth inning gave Duke the decisive lead against Virginia.
Luke Storm's hit in the top of the eighth inning gave Duke the decisive lead against Virginia.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—Road warriors. 

In a game that certainly lived up to the Super Regional billing, Duke once again showed its resilience, overcoming a late deficit to take game one of the Charlottesville Super Regional 5-4 against No. 7-seed Virginia. 

“What a baseball game, what an incredible atmosphere. A real showcase for college baseball,” Duke head coach Chris Pollard said after the game.

In a game that had its twists and turns, it all came down to the last batter. Entering the ninth inning with a one-run lead, Pollard elected to bring in closer James Tallon to try and shut the door. After Tallon allowed two base runners via an infield single and a walk, Virginia superstar Jake Gelof came up to the plate. Gelof seemed to catch all of a Tallon fastball, but his walk-off attempt fell just short, as Tyler Albright caught it at the wall, winning the game for the Blue Devils. 

“He's a great hitter, great player, and he comes up in clutch situations. So at first it was a little breathtaking,” right fielder Damon Lux said. “My throat kind of jumped down into my stomach for a second but we made the play and we got out of it. That kind of encapsulates how our season’s done.”

Duke’s comeback attempt came to a head in the top of the eighth, as a Jay Beshears single and an MJ Metz single forced Virginia to change relievers, bringing up Giovanni DiGiacomo with one out. DiGiacomo did his job for his team, getting hit by a pitch from Jake Berry, Duke’s third HBP of the game. With the stage set for the freshman Albright, Duke was able to tie the game back up, as Albright ripped a line drive into center field that brought Beshears home to score, but the fielder’s choice led to an out at third. Luke Storm was next up, and he brought the thunder, ripping a single into left field, allowing Duke to retake the lead. A walk issued to Lux led to an Alex Mooney at-bat with the bases loaded, but the superstar could not quite sneak one through the infield, grounding out to shortstop to end the inning. 

After a relatively clean game, everything unraveled for the Blue Devils in the bottom half of the sixth inning. Charlie Beilenson took the mound for the sixth frame, and the Cavaliers proceeded to tee off, scoring a run and loading the bases before the reliever could even get an out. A ground ball to second base was enough to knock in the tying run and knock Beilenson out of the ballgame, prompting Pollard to bring in Fran Oschell III with runners on second and third with one out. Oschell surrendered a sacrifice fly to right, giving the Cavaliers their first lead of the game before getting a strikeout to stop the bleeding. 

The Blue Devils drew first blood in the top of the third inning, as the bottom of the order provided a much needed-spark to get the scoring underway in Charlottesville. After Luke Storm was hit by a pitch to begin the frame, Damon Lux became the spark plug for Pollard’s squad, blasting a home run to left field to give Duke a 2-0 lead. A Mooney walk looked like it might shake up Virginia pitcher Nick Parker, but an Andrew Fischer lineout to the warning track combined with Mooney getting caught stealing and a Beshears flyout allowed the Cavaliers to end the inning without surrendering any more runs. 

As expected this late in the season, Virginia instantly answered back. After Andrew Healy issued a walk, the Cavaliers perfectly executed a hit-and-run, getting a ground ball where the second baseman would have been, leading to runners on the corners. One batter later, a grounder that was just slow enough to prevent a double play cut the Duke lead in half at the end of the third. 

The Blue Devils continued to grind out at-bats against Parker in the middle innings, working deep counts and putting the ball in play repeatedly. When you make the defense make a play, good things usually result, and this was the case for Duke in the top of the fifth. A two-out Fischer triple that got just past the outstretched glove of the right fielder put the pressure on the Cavalier defense, who responded with a throwing error that allowed Fischer to come home and score to make it 3-1. Metz had the chance to extend the lead after an Alex Stone single, but a grounder to the shortstop ended the two-out rally. 

As has become the norm with this year’s Blue Devil squad, Pollard leaned heavily on his bullpen to finish the last six innings of the contest. First up Friday was Owen Proksch in the fourth inning. The lefty did his job in the bottom of the fourth, retiring all three batters he faced on six pitches. The freshman came back out for the bottom of the fifth, working around two walks to get out of the inning. 

Duke’s first real opportunity came in the top of the second, as DiGiacomo worked a walk on a full count and stole second base a few pitches later. However, Parker answered in a big way, battling back from a 3-0 count to strike out Albright looking and keep the game scoreless. 

The bottom half of the second frame was largely the same story for the Cavaliers, as Ethan Anderson ripped a one-out double down the left-field line. But just like DiGiacomo, Anderson never advanced past second base, as Healy worked a strikeout and a grounder back to the mound to escape the jam. 

Healy was named for the starter for the Blue Devils in this one, coming off two scoreless innings against Rider in the Conway, S.C., Regional. The freshman was faced with his biggest task of the season: slowing down the extremely potent Cavaliers offense, who came into the Super Regional boasting the best team batting average in the nation at .334. Healy performed admirably in his three innings of work, only allowing one run on two hits, exiting the game with a one-run lead. 

Now, Duke only lies one game away from the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

“Just keep fighting to earn another day together,” Pollard said when asked about his team’s mindset heading into the potential clincher. “Fight to earn another week together, and a win tomorrow buys us another week together.”


Share and discuss “Duke baseball overcomes late deficit to narrowly take game 1 of Super Regional series against Virginia” on social media.