No. 1 Duke softball eases past East Carolina before getting shocked by Campbell for first home loss of season

Ana Gold set the program's home-run record against East Carolina.
Ana Gold set the program's home-run record against East Carolina.

It was a historic Wednesday evening at Duke Softball Stadium — just not for the Blue Devils.  The night instead belonged to Campbell, whose 3-2 triumph against No. 1 Duke marks the team’s best-ever ranked victory. 

In two midweek games against nonconference opposition, perfection was the expectation for the Blue Devils (34-4, 13-2 in the ACC). Having been tapped as the No. 1 team in the nation for the first time in program history this past weekend, Duke was riding higher than it ever had. On Tuesday at East Carolina, this reality was made abundantly clear: The Pirates would fall in six innings against the Blue Devils, an overwhelming victory for Duke which served to solidify its place atop the summit. 

Junior Ana Gold was the story against East Carolina (29-12), launching a towering three-run blast to left-center in the fourth inning. It was the 36th round-tripper of her career, eclipsing Kristina Foreman’s 35 to make herself the Blue Devils’ all-time leader in home runs. She would tack on a fourth RBI with a sixth-inning sac fly, and the rest of the lineup responded in turn. Four other Duke players would drive in at least one run. 

Not to be outdone, the Blue Devils’ pitching staff thoroughly contained the Pirates’ offense. The relay of sophomore Cassidy Curd, graduate student Dani Drogemuller and senior Lillie Walker would ultimately prove too much for East Carolina, who only scraped across one run. Duke won this game going away, earning a run-rule victory in six innings with a final score of 10-1. 

The Blue Devils then rode back to Durham, poised to continue their immaculate run of form in a one-off homestand before their extended road trip to Clemson and UNC Greensboro. Unfortunately for them, the team in the first-base dugout wasn’t going to go down easy. Equipped with a choreographed line dancing routine, a legless, cowboy-hatted mannequin and a will to win, Campbell (22-17-1) came to Duke Softball Stadium with something to prove — and then proved it.

It was a defensive brawl, with only five runs being shared between the two teams. Senior Jala Wright got the nod for the Blue Devils on the mound, while redshirt junior Isabella Smith was the starter for the Camels. Both of these pitchers would go the distance, with neither one ceding the circle for the game’s entire duration. 

This pitchers’ duel was fated from the very first inning, which saw both starters make quick work of the opposing batters. It was in the second inning that Campbell would get to Wright, when the senior’s control slipped as she struggled to find the zone for the better part of the inning. After a quick lineout to put the leadoff batter away, Duke’s otherwise impenetrable defense began to show cracks. Wright plunked the next batter, and a bunt single would put runners on first and second. A walk juiced the bases with two away, and the Camels took full advantage.

It was a great pitch to induce a slow grounder to short, one which would end the inning nine times out of ten. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, the ball took a funny hop before reaching the glove of Jada Baker, and she failed to corral it. Two runs would score on the E6, and a seeing-eye single up the middle would add one more for Campbell. 

Wright settled in afterwards, not giving up a single other run in her next five innings of work. Even so, Duke simply couldn’t figure out Smith. The Raleigh native was dealing, to say the least, throwing three innings of no-hit ball to the Devils’ star-studded lineup. Even after getting a knock in the fourth, Duke seemed unable to punish Campbell.

Things were looking bleak for the Devils entering the bottom of the sixth, having only logged two hits on the night to that point. The first two batters retired quickly, and Duke was down to its last four outs. But just when the writing looked to be on the wall, a pair of walks meant the comeback wasn’t yet dead. Freshman Amiah Burgess came through with a clutch piece of hitting, smoking a double under the outstretched glove of the left fielder to score two runners.

However, any hopes of a comeback were quickly snuffed out by Smith in the bottom of the seventh, as the Campbell dugout stormed the field in celebration of their best win in program history. This result now becomes the lone blemish on the Blue Devils’ otherwise spotless home record, as they fall to 20-1 in Durham. 

In spite of the result, Duke needs to switch gears quickly ahead of this weekend’s three-game set against conference rival Clemson, starting Friday at McWhorter Stadium. 


Share and discuss “No. 1 Duke softball eases past East Carolina before getting shocked by Campbell for first home loss of season” on social media.