DURHAM, N.C. – Trevor Edwards drove in two RBI, including a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth, to help UNC Greensboro to a 5-4 comeback win over Duke on Tuesday evening at Jack Coombs Field.
Edwards, hitting in the three-spot, singled in the Spartans’ second run of the game in the third inning and then blasted a fly ball to deep right field in the top of the ninth to send in Cody Walker and break a 4-4 tie. Edwards’ RBI flyout capped a comeback that saw the Spartans battle back from a 3-0 first-inning deficit thanks to a bullpen that held Duke to one run over nine innings.
Duke (20-20) scored all three runs in the first inning off of starter Andrew Spleth, who faced four batters and did not record an out. Reliever Greg Smith then came in and held Duke to just one run over the next four innings before turning the ball over to four other relievers who held Duke scoreless over the final five frames.
UNC Greensboro (19-16) dug into its weekend rotation and brought in Sunday starter Colby Hyatt (5-2), who recorded the final five outs to secure the victory. Hyatt allowed just one hit – a two-out single by Duke leadoff man Jeff Kremer – and recorded both his strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Kremer was one of two offensive bright spots for Duke, finishing 2-for-4 with a walk, a run and an RBI to extend his streak of reaching base safely to 30 consecutive games. Chris Marconcini also tagged a pair of hits for his fifth multi-hit game in the last nine contests.
The Blue Devils got a career-long 6.2 innings from freshman starter Robert Huber, who saw his bid to improve to 5-0 evaporate in the top of the seventh when the Spartans rallied for two runs after his exit. Huber, who has thrown at least six innings in three straight starts, left the game with two outs and a 4-2 lead in the seventh. UNC Greensboro took advantage of two Duke miscues shortly after his exit, however, cutting Duke’s lead to 4-3 on a passed ball and tying the game on a steal of third by Bobby Martin that resulted in a throwing error and an unearned run.
Control issues plagued Spleth in the first inning, and Duke took advantage with three runs in the opening frame. Duke’s first five hitters reached base safely, and the top three scored before Smith quieted the rally by retiring three straight batters to end the inning.
Huber sat down the side in order in the first inning and worked around two hits in the second, but finally gave way to the UNC Greensboro offense in the third. The top of the Spartans’ lineup laced together three straight singles, including an RBI double by Martin, to cut the deficit to 3-2. Huber rebounded to end the rally and strand the tying run on second base by striking out five-hitter Eric Brindle.
Smith, meanwhile, shut Duke down over the next two innings before Kremer came through with a clutch two-out RBI single in the bottom of the fourth. The Spartans changed pitchers to start the fifth, however, and reliever Jarrett Miller sat down the Blue Devils in order and struck out two to keep Duke’s lead at 4-2.
Huber settled down as well and shut out the Spartans from the fourth through sixth. He nearly completed his seventh inning of work, but gave up a two-out bloop double to leadoff batter John Hein that ended his day. Duke then brought in lefthander Eric Pfisterer (2-3), who immediately ran into some bad luck when Martin reached on a bunt single that pushed leadoff batter John Hein to third, and then Hein scored on an ensuing passed ball. Martin, who also stole second before the passed ball, then stole third and scored the tying run when Duke catcher Mike Rosenfeld’s throw to third sailed wide of the bag into left field.
The game stayed tied at 4-4 until the top of the ninth when Edwards drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly ball to deep right-center field. The sacrifice fly followed a misplay in which Walker, who opened the inning with a leadoff double, moved from second to third when Duke second baseman Marcus Stroman fielded a chopper and opted to try and throw Walker out at third. Stroman’s throw was just late, and Walker came up safe 90 feet away from home plate.
With the lead in hand, Hyatt retired the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth before Kremer came through with a two-out single into left field. Duke then called on senior Dennis O'Grady to pinch hit, but Hyatt snuck a knee-high, two-strike fastball by him to end the game.
Up next for Duke is a three-game series against ACC foe Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla. The Seminoles own the No. 10 national ranking and currently lead the Coastal Division standings.