DURHAM, N.C. – After leading for much of the game, the Duke baseball faced a one-run deficit in the eighth but the Blue Devils were able to rally for the 5-4 victory over High Point Tuesday evening at Jack Coombs Field. Freshman Michael Matuella was outstanding in seven innings on the mound, while redshirt sophomore Chris Marconcini totaled three hits and two RBI to lead the Blue Devils.
Duke (23-20 8-13 ACC) led 3-1 after a three-run third, but High Point (22-21, 9-6 Big South) plated three unanswered – one in the seventh and two in the eighth - to take a 4-3 advantage. In the bottom half of the eighth, junior Jordan Betts drew a leadoff walk and scored from first on Marconcini’s second double of the night to tie the game before freshman Kenny Koplove drove in what proved to be the game-winning run.
“At the end of the day, a win’s a win against a very quality, very well-coached club” said head coach Chris Pollard. “Even though you don’t like to give away a lead like we did, at the same time you learn something about yourself when you have to battle back in a ball game like that. We showed some guts. We didn’t show great execution in a lot of the things we did today, but we showed guts.”
In his fifth start of the season, Matuella scattered three hits over seven innings and allowed just two runs, only one earned. The rookie right-hander struck out three and walked one batter in the no decision.
“Ultimately the credit goes to Michael Matuella,” Pollard added. “The job that he did … he deserved to win the ball game. The quality of the start he gave us really allowed us to overcome some of our mistakes. I thought he showed tremendous composure, poise, competitive fire - all those things. He showed me a lot today.”
Marconcini turned in his first three-hit performance of the season with a pair of doubles and a single against the Panthers. Koplove was 2-for-4 with an RBI, while redshirt sophomore Aaron Cohn laced a single in his first at bat of the season. Junior Jordan Betts and senior Jeff Kremer both added a hit and an RBI as well.
High Point struck first with an unearned run in the second as Spencer Angelis reached on an error and ultimately scored on a Scott Glover grounder to the right side.
Duke registered three hits with two outs in the bottom of the third to claim a 3-1 advantage. Senior Ryan Munger walked and scored the first Blue Devil run of the game on a Kremer two-out base hit. Sophomore Grant McCabe kept the rally going with a walk before a Betts base knock plated Kremer. Marconcini then recorded his first RBI of the evening with a single to score McCabe.
With Matuella on the mound, Duke appeared to be in control, but High Point cut the lead to 3-2 in the seventh. Senior Ryan Retz began with a single, advanced to third on a Cody Manzella base hit and scored on a wild pitch. With the tying run at third, Matuella struck out Dane McDermott to end the frame and preserve the Duke lead.
In the top of the eighth, a high fly ball lost in the lights put a Panther runner on second and High Point tied the game on a Josh Spano RBI double just inside the third base line. The Panthers then regained the lead with a Retz RBI single before sophomore Andrew Istler (2-3), who tossed two innings with a pair of strikeouts to pick up the win, induced a fly ball to left to end the frame.
“It was bad luck,” Pollard said. “I thought [Istler] left a couple balls up but those two runs are more bad luck than anything.”
Istler permitted a two-out single in the ninth but got leadoff hitter Willie Medina to fly out to right to end the game.
The Panthers’ Zach Haile (1-1) suffered the loss after giving up two runs on three hits in 1.1 innings of work.
The Blue Devils will reunite with the Panthers tomorrow, traveling to High Point for a 6 p.m. start. Duke will then host Maryland over the weekend at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park Friday, Saturday and Sunday.