CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – A six-run fourth pulled Duke within two after the Blue Devils trailed big early, but No. 20 Virginia never relinquished its lead in a 13-6 decision Saturday afternoon at Davenport Field.
Virginia (18-6, 3-5 ACC) poured on eight runs over the first three frames before Duke (13-12, 4-4 ACC) clawed back into the contest thanks to a six-run fourth that included center fielder Jimmy Herron’s fourth homer of the season. Despite the breakout inning, Duke could come no closer and the Cavaliers extended their margin down the stretch with home runs in both the sixth and seventh.
Compared to Friday’s offensive outpouring, the Duke bats got off to a rather inauspicious start Saturday. Virginia notched 12 hits prior to Duke’s first base knock, a Jack Labosky fourth-inning infield single. That single, however, spawned a six-run fourth featuring Herron’s three-run bomb that pulled Duke back into the ballgame.
Adam Haseley’s first-inning RBI double started the scoring. UVA added three more in the second on Charlie Cody’s solo homer, Justin Novak’s RBI double and Ernie Clement’s RBI single. In the third, Virginia registered six consecutive one-out hits, resulting in four more runs.
Virginia did the early damage against freshman left-hander Adam Laskey (2-2). The Cavaliers put up eight runs on 12 hits against the rookie southpaw.
“You give credit to UVA early on,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “They did a good job of putting the ball in play. I liked the way Adam [Laskey] continued to attack the strike zone. He executed some good pitches. Some balls found holes. That’s baseball. We were on the other end of that yesterday.”
Duke entered the fourth down 8-0 and without a hit, but broke out for six runs in the inning. Griffin Conine coaxed a leadoff walk prior to Labosky’s base hit. Michael Smiciklas roped an RBI single before a wild pitch allowed Labosky to score. Herron then greeted reliever Alec Bettinger (3-0) with a three-run homer, Herron’s fourth of the season.
“Thought it was a great job by our club to have an answer in the fourth and force a flush,” Pollard said. “Get [Evan] Sperling out of game and get them on the ropes.”
The Blue Devils’ fourth knocked UVA starter Evan Sperling out of the contest after 3.2 innings. Sperling allowed five runs on three hits and four walks. He struck out six. Duke was unable to match its fourth-inning outpouring the rest of the way as Bettinger pitched 5.1 innings of relief. He allowed one run on three hits, struck out five and walked one.
“Bettinger really settled in after the fourth and we weren’t able to string a lot together against him,” Pollard said.
The game remained an 8-6 affair for an inning and a half. Virginia put three runs on the board to conclude a sixth inning that saw Cody’s second long ball of the game. A Pavin Smith two-run number the following stanza put the game out of reach, 13-6.
Duke and Virginia return to Davenport Field at 1 p.m., Sunday, March 26 for the rubber match on ACC Network Extra.