Virginia demolishes Duke baseball in second game of Super Regional, setting up winner-takes-all Sunday clash

Starting pitcher Alex Gow surrendered four runs in his 3.1 innings at the mound.
Starting pitcher Alex Gow surrendered four runs in his 3.1 innings at the mound.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—Live to fight another day.

With a chance to advance to the College World Series Saturday in Charlottesville, Duke did not answer the bell, getting thrashed by Virginia in a 14-4 rout, one that sets up a decisive game three for the right to travel to Omaha. 

This one was all Cavaliers despite one offensive outburst from the Blue Devils in the fourth inning that made it a one-run ballgame and a late futile rally in the eighth, with Virginia riding a gem from starting pitcher Connelly Early and leaning on its potent offense to cruise to a victory in front of the home crowd at Disharoon Park. 

“First, credit to Virginia because they played really well with their backs against the wall,” Duke head coach Chris Pollard said.

Right when Duke seemed to have all the momentum, it all came tumbling back down in the top of the fifth inning. Aaron Beasley was pulled in favor of Adam Boucher, who was instantly rocked by the Virginia lineup. Before Boucher could even get an out, he allowed a three-run home run, an absolute moonshot by Ethan Anderson. After finally retiring his first batter, Boucher served up another long ball, making it 8-3 Virginia and seemingly ending Duke’s comeback hopes. 

Virginia did not let up after their big fifth inning, as Edward Hart was the next Duke pitcher who had trouble stopping the Cavalier lineup. After walking the leadoff batter, Hart gave up two doubles, with the second one by Jake Gelof extending the Virginia lead to 10-3. After being relatively quieted in the seventh and early in the eighth, the Cavaliers decided they wanted to sink the dagger in, as Jake Gelof willed a two-run home run out after being so close to hitting the game-winner Friday. Right after Gelof, Virginia added two more courtesy of a double that banged off the right-field wall. 

Just like it has done so many times this season, Duke’s offense kicked into overdrive after the first third of the game. After it seemed like Early may escape another two-base runner situation, Luke Storm finally broke through for the Blue Devils in the bottom of the fourth, ripping a double into the left-center gap to bring home two runs, cutting an early 4-0 deficit in half. The fun did not stop there for Duke, as Damon Lux continued his impressive Super Regional performance by knocking in Storm via a double to make it 4-3. 

In this one, it was the Cavaliers who struck first, and if you were late to the stadium, you would have missed it. On the second pitch from Alex Gow, Griff O’Ferrall crushed a home run to left field, giving Virginia an early 1-0 lead. After the early blunder, Gow was able to settle down, sitting down the next three batters he faced, aided by a stellar diving grab by Giovanni DiGiacomo. 

In the top of the second, Gow was once again struck by some early adversity, hitting the first batter and giving up a single. A sacrifice fly by Anthony Stephan was good enough to score the runner from third, giving Virginia a 2-0 lead in as many innings. However, unlike the first inning, Gow was unable to stop the bleeding, as a single to left field brought home another Cavalier run, putting Duke in a 3-0 hole. 

Gow was chased out of the game after hitting a batter and giving up a single that advanced the runner to third. This cleared the way for Aaron Beasley to enter the game, hoping to minimize the damage. But just like Gow, the dangerous Virginia lineup got to Beasley, leading to a sac fly that gave the Cavaliers their fourth run. 

Duke’s first signs of life came in the bottom of the second, as MJ Metz and DiGiacomo laced back-to-back singles, giving the Blue Devils an opportunity with one out. To the dismay of the away crowd, Early worked masterfully out of the jam, striking out Tyler Albright and Luke Storm to keep Duke scoreless. 

The Blue Devils continued to get on base, but Early repeatedly found a way to escape any danger. In the bottom of the third, Duke was able to gain another runner after Alex Mooney was hit by a pitch. Unfortunately for Pollard’s team, their star and leader seemed to be seriously injured after being hit, struggling to run the bases. However, Mooney remained in the game, a beacon of the warrior mentality the Blue Devils have embraced all year. 

“It will be Alex's decision,” Pollard said when asked about Mooney’s status. “If he tells us that he can play, he will be out there. He's earned that. And I have no doubt that that's what he's going to tell us.”

Gow was named the starter for Duke in this one, his 17th start of the season. Just like Andrew Healy Friday, the tall task of stopping the explosive Cavaliers lineup awaited, and Gow did not perform quite as well as Healy. The graduate transfer went 3.1 innings of work, giving up five hits and four runs while only striking out one batter. 

It all comes down to Sunday, and Duke will have to play much better in order to have a fighting chance in the winner-takes-all third game. 

“I think one thing we've done well all season is just flushing everything down the drain and just focusing on our team,” DiGiacomo said when asked about the mindset heading into the final game.


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