END OF THE ROAD: Duke baseball falls behind early, bows out of NCAA Super Regional in game 3 against Virginia

Andrew Fischer (3) and Jay Beshears (22) in Duke's Sunday loss to Virginia.
Andrew Fischer (3) and Jay Beshears (22) in Duke's Sunday loss to Virginia.


In the winner-takes-all game three of the Charlottesville Super Regional, Virginia flexed its muscle, sending Duke home in a 12-2 thrashing. 

To punch its ticket to the College World Series, Virginia relied on the same recipe that made it a top-eight seed nationally, riding its starters deep into games and letting its spectacular offense do its thing. In this one, it was Brian Edgington’s turn to put up a gem from the mound, as the Elon transfer had the Blue Devils number for most of the afternoon, going eight innings deep and constantly working out of jams to keep Duke at bay.

“First and foremost, congratulations to Virginia. They've got a tremendous team. And they played really, really well over the last two days,” Duke head coach Chris Pollard said. “And the reality is they just outplayed us, they played better than we did the last two days.”

The second inning was like deja vu to the Blue Devil faithful, as starting pitcher Ryan Higgins allowed a leadoff double followed by a walk again to set up an early jam. This time, head coach Chris Pollard had seen enough, as Higgins was lifted in favor of Charlie Beilenson. Beilenson did not have the same success with escaping his inherited jam, as three straight singles made it a 3-0 ballgame. After drawing a walk, the Virginia lineup kept churning, as a Kyle Teel single tacked on two more. After another walk spelled more trouble for Beilenson, a double play allowed Duke to finally stop the bleeding. 

After allowing the big inning in the second, Beilenson was able to minimize the damage, holding the Cavaliers scoreless to back to back frames. But after allowing back to back runners on in the fifth, he was pulled for Owen Proksch, and the freshman hit his first batter before getting a strikeout to set up a two-out situation for Jimmy Romano. Romano escaped, getting a big flyout to right field to strand the bases loaded. 

When it needed it most, the top of the Blue Devil order finally delivered in the top of the sixth inning. After Andrew Fischer snuck a single to right field through the shift, Jay Beshears threw the first return blow for Duke, hitting a home run to left field that cut the deficit to three and gave the Blue Devils a much-needed spark. MJ Metz dropped another single in to give Duke a chance at a two-out explosion, but Edgington strutted his stuff once again, getting Giovanni DiGiacomo with a big strikeout that excited the crowd at Disharoon Park.

Right when Duke had all the momentum, the Cavaliers immediately snatched it back in the bottom half of the sixth. After giving up a leadoff single, Romano was pulled for Aaron Beasley, and the wheels once again fell off for the Blue Devils. After making an error on a Virginia bunt, Beasley allowed Jake Gelof to continue his excellent weekend at the plate, as he knocked in a run with a single to center field. After a Teel fielder’s choice scored another, the Cavaliers struck the knockout blow as Ethan Anderson crushed a ball to left field, making it 9-2. 

“Yeah, they did it to us yesterday, too. It’s a hallmark of a really good offense,” Pollard said. “They've done a really good job with their responses.”

One inning later, it was Gabriel Nard’s turn to face the music, and he could not dodge the threat either, surrendering a double that just landed fair down the left field line, adding another run to Virginia’s tally. Edward Hart came in to relieve Nard, and gave up a bloop single to Teel to make it 11-2, extending the misery for Duke. In the eighth, Virginia added its final strike, hitting another home run to make the lead double digits. 

In the third inning, Duke’s top of the order once again provided some offense with two outs, as Alex Mooney ripped a double and Fischer drew a walk. However, a ball in the dirt led to Fischer taking too big of a lead off first, and a throw down to first from Teel caught Fischer, ending the rally. Beshears came back with a single to lead off the fourth for Duke, but Edgington once again slammed the door, giving Duke one less chance to come back. 

Duke’s first trip to the plate looked just like a continuation of Saturday, highlighted by an inability to bring home runners in scoring position. After a Fischer one-out double, the top half of Duke’s lineup, who had been relatively quiet up to this point in the weekend, seemed primed to finally break through. But just like the game before, Virginia’s pitching staff found a way to escape, striking out Beshears and getting Alex Stone to ground out to end the inning. 

In Virginia’s first chance to do damage, it seemed to pick up right where it left off in the game-two drubbing. After his leadoff homer Saturday, Griff O’Ferrall delivered again early, ripping a leadoff double off Higgins. After Higgins walked the following batter, the Blue Devils were in trouble early. Right when he could have caved and allowed an early deficit, Higgins buckled down, forcing three straight flyouts on the heart of the potent Cavalier order, keeping the game knotted at zero through one frame. 

Higgins was tagged by Pollard as the starter for the series finale. After seeming like he may have settled down after escaping a big jam in the first inning, the sophomore was bested by the powerful Virginia offense. Higgins only faced seven batters before getting pulled, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks. 

Duke’s impressive season ends one game from Omaha on the road. Pollard’s squad finishes with a 39-24 record.

“We're going to return one of the better teams in the country next year,” Pollard said. “We're going to be really, really good again next year. We're going to be back.”


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