ATHENS, Ga. – For the first time in school history, Duke is headed to the NCAA Super Regionals after the Blue Devils bested No. 9 Georgia, 8-4, to win the 2018 NCAA Athens Regional Monday afternoon at Foley Field.
After defeating Georgia (39-21) earlier in the day, Duke (44-16) used four home runs and stellar pitching performances to stave off the Bulldogs in the nightcap. The Blue Devils next face Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas.
“I’m kind of at a loss for words,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “I want to congratulate Georgia on an unbelievable season. To say that I’m proud of our team is the biggest understatement that I’ve ever said. Unbelievable resiliency and character and fight. They’ve got a lot invested in one another.”
Griffin Conine blasted two home runs, totaling three longballs on the day, while Zack Kone and Jimmy Herron had a homer each. On short rest, senior Mitch Stallings pitched seven complete before turning the game over to Labosky for the six-out save.
Stallings (4-5) earned the win following a gritty performance on the mound. The senior lefty scattered seven hits, allowing four runs (three earned) while fanning six. Stallings (4-5) earned the win following a gritty performance on the mound. The senior lefty scattered seven hits, allowing four runs (three earned) while fanning six.
“Mitch [Stallings] is one of the best pitchers in the history of this program,” Pollard said. “He has pitched big innings for us since he first walked on campus as a freshman, but the last four weeks have been really hard. Probably the hardest four weeks that he’s had since he’s been at Duke. He’s been able to grind his way through it and gave us the biggest start of his career and the biggest start in the history of this program.”
After pitching three innings and earning the win in game one, Labosky retired all six batters he faced in the finale to pick up his 10th save of the season. Labosky’s effort capped a tremendous effort by the Duke bullpen all weekend. Relievers Labosky, Ethan DeCaster, Bryce Jarvis, Graeme Stinson and Hunter Davis combined for a 3-0 record and 1.86 ERA over 29.0 innings with 35 strikeouts to six walks.
Similar to Duke’s four preceding NCAA Athens Regional games, the Blue Devils fell behind early. With two outs in the second, Cam Shepherd walked and scored on an LJ Talley double down the right field line. A Duke throwing error on the play allowed Talley to score and put the Bulldogs up, 2-0.
The Blue Devils had an immediate answer, plating five to start the third. Chris Crabtree began the inning with a double and Herron walked before three straight Blue Devils blasted extra base hits. Chris Proctor doubled to start the scoring, Kone launched a three-run homer and Conine drilled a solo shot with the result a 5-2 Duke lead.
Georgia chipped away with solo runs in the fourth and seventh, but each time Stallings was able to minimize the damage.
Duke then plated two insurance runs in the top of the ninth, first on Herron’s solo shot then again on a Kennie Taylor two-out RBI single.
After trailing Campbell 8-1 in an elimination game Saturday, Duke outscored its opponent 47-15 over the next four games to advance to the Super Regionals.
Six Blue Devils earned NCAA Athens Regional All-Tournament Team honors, led by freshman Chris Crabtree’s Most Outstanding Player citation. Crabtree had a breakout tournament, going 10-for-14 with two home runs, three doubles, nine RBI, six runs and three walks.
NCAA ATHENS REGIONAL ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
P: Mitch Stallings, Duke
P: Corey Childress, Troy
C: Chris Proctor, Duke
DH: Chris Crabtree, Duke
1B: Adam Sasser, Georgia
2B: Max Miller, Duke
3B: Drew Federic, Troy
SS: Zack Kone, Duke
OF: Griffin Conine, Duke
OF: Keegan McGovern, Georgia
OF: Joey Denison, Troy
Most Outstanding Player: Chris Crabtree, Duke