DURHAM, N.C. – Manny Martir threw 5.1 innings of one-run ball out of the bullpen, and Andrew Rash accounted for four runs to lead Virginia Tech past Duke 6-5 in 10 innings on Saturday afternoon at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Martir (2-1) entered the game with Virginia Tech leading 5-4 in the fifth inning and held the Blue Devils to one unearned run the rest of the way. Duke would tie the game on a two-out RBI single by Will Piwnica-Worms in the bottom of the seventh, but Rash gave Virginia Tech the go-ahead run when he scored on a two-out passed ball in the top of the 10th inning.
Rash was originally ruled out at the plate on the passed ball, but after a lengthy umpire’s conference, the call was overturned and the run counted. Hitting in the five-spot in the lineup, Rash scored twice and drove in two RBI with three singles. The ACC’s home run leader, Rash drove in Virginia Tech’s second run of the game with a third-inning single, scored the go-ahead run in the top of the fifth after reaching with another RBI single, and then sparked the game-winning rally with a leadoff single in the top of the 10th.
The Hokies (25-20, 8-15 ACC) won the battle of the bullpens thanks to Martir and first baseman Ronnie Shaban, who took the mound to record the final two outs and his second save of the season. Shaban entered the game with the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first, and induced two groundouts from the bottom of Duke’s lineup to end the game.
Duke (21-25, 5-18 ACC) got three shutout innings from reliever Ben Grisz in his best outing of the season. Grisz gave up just one hit and struck out three before sophomore Marcus Stroman took over in the ninth. Stroman struck out the side in the ninth, but Rash led off the 10th inning with his third hit of the game, advanced two bases on a sacrifice bunt and a groundout, and then scored on the passed ball.
Grisz took over for freshman starter Robert Huber, who worked around two errors to hold Virginia Tech to five runs – only three earned – over five innings. It was Huber’s fifth straight start of at least five innings, but he came away with another no-decision when Duke tied the game on Piwnica-Worms’ two-out single in the seventh inning.
Huber held the Hokies in check over the first two innings, but gave up two doubles and a pair of singles in the third that allowed Virginia Tech to jump on top 2-0. Tyler Horan sent in the first run with a two-bagger that landed just in front of a diving David Perkins in left field, and Rash came through with a two-out single through the left side of the infield that scored Horan.
Huber rebounded to retire the side in order in the top of the fourth, and his offense rewarded him with four runs in the group’s next turn at the plate. Perkins and Anthony D'Alessandro started the rally with back-to-back singles, and Virginia Tech starter Marc Zecchino then hit two straight batters to load the bases and send in a run. Angelo LaBruna followed with a sacrifice fly to the warning track in the left field gap that tied the game, and Jeff Kremer drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI single through the right side. Horan had trouble fielding the ball in right field, however, and let it roll past him all the way to the wall. Mark Tatera scored all the way from first on the misplay for Duke’s fourth run of the inning.
Rash came through for the Hokies again in the top of the fifth, however, with a two-out RBI single that sparked a three-run rally. Virginia Tech took a 5-4 lead, thanks in part to an errant throw to the plate from Perkins on Rash’s single. The error allowed Tim Smalling to score from third, and center fielder Tony Balisteri kept the rally alive with an RBI double.
Duke and Virginia Tech both went to their bullpens in the sixth, and the pitching changes brought on a 1.5-inning scoreless drought before Duke tied the game on an RBI single by Piwnica-Worms in the bottom of the seventh. The game-tying hit bounced off the glove of a lunging Johnny Morales at third base and scored Dennis O'Grady, who reached base on a dropped popup and moved to third on another single by Marconcini that was just out of reach of Virginia Tech second baseman Michael Seaborn.
On Duke’s end, Grisz had his best outing of the year, holding the Hokies to just one hit over three complete innings. Martir was just as good after the seventh inning, however, and held Duke scoreless the rest of the way.
Duke had a chance to move the go-ahead run 90 feet from the plate in the bottom of the ninth, but Hokie right fielder Chad Pinder came up with a crucial defensive play when he threw out O’Grady at third base following a single by Marconcini. O’Grady was on first when Marconcini laced his base hit through the right side and had already rounded second at full speed when Pinder came up with the ball. Pinder then fired a strike to third baseman Johnny Morales, who applied the tag and then sent the ball across the infield to Shaban at first base, who caught Marconcini off the bag for a double play.
That play swung the momentum in Virginia Tech’s favor, as Rash led off the top of the 10th with a single through the left side. A sacrifice bunt by Balisteri and a groundout by Matt Blow moved him to third, and then Stroman’s first offering to Chad Morgan careened off Kremer’s glove and to the backstop. Kremer gloved the ball at the wall and threw a perfect toss to Stroman at the plate, but Rash knocked the ball loose as he slid into the plate and was eventually ruled safe after a lengthy conference between the umpires resulted in the original call – that Rash was out on the tag – being overturned.
Duke and Virginia Tech will play the series finale on Sunday at 1 p.m. Duke will start right-handed sophomore Chase Bebout (2-2, 3.77 ERA) against Virginia Tech right-hander Joe Parsons (5-2, 3.63 ERA).