Davidson, Vega take center stage to lead No. 4 Duke softball atop ACC, past No. 10 Virginia Tech

Kelly Torres' single clinched the win for the Blue Devils.
Kelly Torres' single clinched the win for the Blue Devils.

At the beginning of this week, No. 10 Virginia Tech saw itself in sole possession of the conference’s top spot. At week’s end, fans will be greeted by a new frontrunner — the fourth-ranked Blue Devils. 

In a heavyweight clash between two teams jostling for a regular season title, the Blue Devils were able to grind out a series sweep against top opposition. The second game of a set has proven quite elusive for Duke as of late, with both of the team’s recent losses sandwiched between two wins at the front and back end of a series. They were able to break this cycle in walk-off fashion against the Hokies, eking out a 6-5 win Friday to deny a rubber game. 

“We talked a lot about being really resilient and responding when things get tough,” said head coach Marissa Young of Friday’s win. “We know Virginia Tech has a high-powered offense … it’s just a matter of being a tougher team and punching back.”

The team’s versatility was on full display from the very first match, boasting unparalleled knowledge of small-ball tactics and the power to leave the ballpark. Sophomore Aminah Vega and senior Claire Davidson would plate five between them, with a flurry of extra base hits and long balls. Pitchers Cassidy Curd and Lillie Walker would split the innings, still conceding five runs to the Hokies’ high-powered offense. Even so, the Blue Devils (29-3, 10-2 in the ACC) would knock in 14 runs en route to a mercy-rule victory in five innings. 

“We’ve worked really hard over the last couple of years to be a complete offense,” Young said. “We can do it with the short game, we have a lot of speed and smarts on the bases. We can hit the gaps, we can also hit it out of the park.”

Following the offensive onslaught that was game one, Duke was forced to dig in and sweat out a close one in game two. Senior pitcher Jala Wright gave up two quick homers, forcing the Blue Devils to play from four runs behind early. It would take them more than half of the game to erase this deficit — the comeback being spearheaded by none other than Vega. 

She would launch a pair of two-run shots at key junctures in the game, grabbing back those four runs with her bat. 

“I took the game slow, just thinking see ball, hit ball; get a good pitch and have a quality at bat,” Vega said of her performance in game two. 

A single by senior Sarah Goddard would finally flip the tables, allowing the Blue Devils to take their first lead of the game in the sixth. 

The one-two punch of Wright and Walker would stifle Virginia Tech’s offense until the final frame of the match, when a throwing error would knot things up for the Hokies (25-8-1, 9-3). The defense would hold firm, however, and a laser from left on a sac-fly attempt would result in an inning-ending double play with the score knotted.

“We’re the best defense out there,” Vega said. 

The stage was set for a dramatic ending, and it was senior Kelly Torres who would deliver the dagger with a walk-off single. 

With the series won, the Blue Devils looked to close out this top-10 matchup with a third victory. Vega would drive in a run to give Duke an early lead, one which would be promptly erased. Wright got the nod for a second-consecutive game, and her fatigue was evident. Senior Emma Ritter would wave at a ball low and away, somehow making strong contact as she drilled one into the scoreboard to put Virginia Tech up 2-1. This would be the entirety of the offense for the Hokies, with both Vega and Davidson hitting long balls to put the Blue Devils on top 5-2. 

Curd would get a long relief assignment, completely shutting out Tech for five innings as Duke cruised to the series sweep. 

“Don’t mess with us,” Vega said of her team’s performance. “We’re a really competitive team, and we’re ready to go for it all.” 

“Being able to come out and take it to them [Virginia Tech] for three games … I’m really proud of the way the team was able to do that this weekend against a great team,” Young said.

The Devils now find themselves atop the ACC, but they will have a one-game break from conference play Wednesday against Charlotte. Following that, it will be another weekend series against rival North Carolina at Duke Softball Stadium. 


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