BLACKSBURG, Va. – Sophomore Nick Hendrix pitched 4.1 scoreless innings in relief and classmate Kenny Koplove delivered a sacrifice fly in the 12th to lead the Duke baseball team past Virginia Tech 3-2 Friday evening at English Field.
After Virginia Tech (18-18-1, 7-12 ACC) tied the game at 2-2 in the eighth, the two squads battled through three scoreless frames. In the top of the 12th, freshman Cris Perez laced his first career triple past the outstretched glove of Tech right fielder Tom Stoffel and Koplove drove him in with a fly ball to left field for his 11th RBI of the season.
Hendrix (2-1) took over with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth and was brilliant the rest of the way. He retired 13 of the 15 batters he faced and did not allow a run while striking out a career-best seven batters.
“[Hendrix] was flawless and [he] showed tremendous fight,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “If [Mark] Zagunis, who’s one of the best offensive catchers in the country, hits a double [in the eighth], the ballgame’s probably over with. To get us off the field in that situation, and then go out and put up four zeroes against a really good offensive club just shows you what type of competitor he is.”
Senior right-hander Drew Van Orden took the mound for his seventh Friday start and was outstanding in the no decision. Van Orden allowed one run on two hits over seven complete innings. He walked two and struck out three, retiring 10 straight batters at one point.
Van Orden’s counterpart, Virginia Tech starter Sean Keselica, also pitched well in a no decision. Keselica scattered three hits over 7.1 innings of work, yielding two runs while walking six and striking out three.
Both pitchers faced the minimum through the first three innings before Duke (22-17, 10-9 ACC) was able to manufacture a run in the fourth. Senior Mark Lumpa legged out an infield single to lead things off and classmate Jordan Betts added a base hit of his own a batter later. Virginia Tech appeared to have the double play ball it needed to conclude the frame on a Chris Marconcini grounder to second, but the Blue Devil right fielder hustled down the line to beat the throw. That allowed Lumpa to scamper home on the RBI fielder’s choice, Marconcini’s team-leading 35th RBI of the season.
The 1-0 Duke advantage would last until the bottom of the fifth as a leadoff walk would come back to haunt the Blue Devils. Brendon Hayden worked the six-pitch leadoff walk and took second on a wild pitch to move into scoring position. Keselica then helped his own cause with an RBI base hit up the middle to knot the score at 1-1.
Duke’s answer was immediate and the Blue Devils regained the upper hand 2-1 in the sixth. Koplove lined a base knock to center and Lumpa followed with his 35th walk of the season. An intentional pass to Jordan Betts loaded the bases for Marconcini, who picked up his 10th multiple RBI game of the season with a sacrifice fly to deep right field.
The Blue Devils ran into trouble in the eighth as senior Robert Huber struggled with his command, walking three in the frame. Keselica walked and Kyle Wernicki singled before a free pass to Ryan Tufts loaded the bases. Huber struck out Saige Jenco for the second out of the inning, but could not overcome a 3-0 count to Alex Perez, walking the Hokie second baseman to tie the game at two-all.
Koplove made a sensational play to get Zagunis at first to wrap up the eighth before providing the late-game heroics in the 12th.
“Just incredibly proud of our team,” Pollard said. “I thought we showed immense toughness. It’s very hard to win an extra inning game on the road, especially in a conference like this. To have to do it after giving away the left and having to make the play we made to get off the field in the eighth. Everything that went into that, just an incredible team win.”
Duke and Virginia Tech square off in game two of the series Saturday, April 19 at 2 p.m.