No. 6 Duke baseball avoids sweep by demolishing No. 10 Florida State Sunday in seven innings

It is said that good things come in threes. 

That was certainly true for the sixth-ranked Blue Devils Sunday, who rode back-to-back-to-back home runs to a 16-4, seven-inning victory against No. 10 Florida State. It was a much-needed win for Duke, who dropped the first two games of the series against the Seminoles amidst inconsistent offensive production.

“We've only had two times this year where we've had our backs up against the wall, on the verge of being swept. And both times, we've run-ruled a top-25 team,” head coach Chris Pollard said after the game. “It shows grit, determination and what these guys are made out of.”

A blistering start from the Blue Devils’ lineup forced Florida State head coach Link Jarrett to make another early call to the arm barn, bringing in submarine pitcher Noah Short as the fourth pitcher of the game in just the second inning. Instead of slowing Duke’s bats down, the change of tempo let them blow the game open.

After retiring the first batter he saw, Short watched three straight balls clear the outfield fence. First up was freshman left fielder Kyle Johnson, who barely sneaked one out to left-center. Freshman designated hitter Chase Krewson and graduate second baseman Zac Morris left little doubt with their homers, though, as they hammered balls to right and left field, respectively. By the time the Seminoles finally got back to their dugout, they were facing a 10-run deficit.

Florida State got two back via a long ball of its own in the third, but sophomore southpaw James Tallon and graduate closer Charlie Beilenson shut the door with four combined scoreless innings. The Blue Devils extinguished any hope of a Seminole comeback with three more in the fourth — headlined by a two-run double from senior catcher Alex Stone — and graduate first baseman Logan Bravo punctuated a four-RBI day with a double in the sixth.

Sunday marked a drastic change from earlier in the weekend, as Duke had six hits with runners in scoring position in the series finale compared to a combined four in the previous two games. On the whole, the Blue Devils hit .471 and totaled 16 hits.

The top of Florida State’s lineup, which produced four runs in the first inning of Friday’s game, was firing from the get go again Sunday. Sophomore third baseman Cam Smith started things off with a two-strike single, and junior right fielder James Tibbs III ripped a double to put two runners in scoring position. A passed ball and a sacrifice fly brought them home and allowed the Seminoles to strike first for the third time in three days.

“We had been told coming in, [Florida State is] probably the best offensive team in our league,” Pollard said. “I think you could certainly make a case that there may be the best offensive team we've played this year.”

However, the Blue Devils’ bats brought some early action of their own, in part aided by Mother Nature. Two balls that probably should have been caught were lost amidst the sun and swirling winds, leading to a bases-loaded opportunity for Duke in the first.

Ready to capitalize, Stone caught a barrel and sent a screamer up the middle. A diving stop from second baseman Drew Faurot mitigated most of the damage, but a run still scored and Florida State was unable to turn the double play. Bravo drove in another to even the score, but the Blue Devils were unable to break things open any further. That is, until the next inning.

Duke continued to pound Seminole starter Brady Louck, with the first three batters of the second all reaching base. After Morris gave the Blue Devils the lead with an RBI single, Jarrett opted to turn the bullpen. That did little to slow down his opponents, as they poured in four more runs against senior Andrew Armstrong.

Bravo drove in two with a double off the wall in right-center, Morris scored on a wild pitch and — to set the Duke freshman record for RBIs in a season — right fielder AJ Gracia brought one home with a line drive to center. The rookie extended the record to 45 with a sac fly in the fourth.

“Getting to face a lot of our guys in the fall and the preseason definitely prepared me for the season,” Gracia said of adjusting to the college game. “I feel like I haven't seen anything this year that I haven't already seen before.”

While this weekend was the Blue Devils’ first series loss since they traveled to N.C. State in late March, Sunday snapped a three-game losing streak and rebuilt some of the team’s confidence heading into an extended break. Duke will have a week off before taking on Longwood in a doubleheader May 5.

Dom Fenoglio | Sports Managing Editor

Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


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