DURHAM, N.C. – With the score tied at 1-1 after seven innings, No. 15 Georgia Tech scored the go-ahead run on an infield single in the eighth and held off the Duke baseball team in the final two frames for the 2-1 victory Saturday afternoon at Jack Coombs Field.
“It was just a very evenly played ball game,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “It came down to an infield single with two strikes and two outs. Sometimes the margin is very thin in baseball. Both teams have competed well [this series]. Both teams have pitched great, played really good defense. Neither team has banged the ball all around the ballpark, but you’re seeing two good teams going toe-to-toe.”
Duke struck first with its lone run of the game coming in the second inning. The Blue Devils put a run on the board after freshman Kenny Koplove sent a fly ball to the outfield that Tech right fielder Daniel Palka lost in the sun. With a runner on second, senior Ryan Munger delivered the two-out RBI single to put Duke on top, 1-0.
Georgia Tech answered in the top of the third as a pair of walks proved costly. Third baseman Sam Dove and Palka drew back-to-back, one-out walks and catcher Zane Evans singled through the right side to even the score at one-all. Duke starter Drew Van Orden was able to work out of the jam, inducing a groundball to third before striking out A.J. Murray to end the frame.
A gritty outing by Van Orden, the Duke right-hander walked six batters but only gave up the one run over six complete. The Manhattan Beach, Calif., native allowed just three singles and struck out five in his eighth start of the season.
“[Van Orden] showed a really good competitive fight,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “It wasn’t perfect. He struggled a little bit with command early. Struggled a little bit with fastball command, but I thought he showed really good competitive fight. He made pitches when he needed to and a lot of times that’s what pitching is all about. It’s not necessarily putting it on cruise control. Sometimes you’re able to do that, but you also have to be able to grind away and make a pitch when you need to.”
Palka began the top of the frame with a double to right center, Georgia Tech’s first extra-base hit of the series. Evans followed with a walk before Matt Gonzalez sent a fly ball to center for the first out and Istler fanned Murray for the second out. Facing a full count, designated hitter Thomas Smith fouled off a pair of pitches, then bounced a ball up the middle for the RBI single. Koplove was almost able to range over from shortstop to make the play, but Smith beat out the throw at first, allowing Palka to plate the go-ahead run.
Trailing by one, Duke had a chance in the ninth as sophomore Grant McCabe drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a Jordan Betts sac bunt. However, Evans, now on the mound in relief, retired the final two Duke batters to preserve the victory.
Georgia Tech’s Jonathan King (2-2) earned the win, throwing 2.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts. Istler (1-3) would suffer the loss after permitting one run on two hits in the eighth.
Junior Mark Lumpa was the only Blue Devil with more than one hit in the contest as the Duke left fielder went 2-for-3 at the plate for the second straight game. The Yellow Jacket offense was led by Kyle Wren, who was 2-for-5 on the afternoon.
Duke and Georgia Tech wrap up the series Sunday, facing off at 1 p.m., at Jack Coombs Field.