DURHAM, N.C. – Pittsburgh’s P.J. DeMeo bounced an RBI infield single in the 10th to complete the Panthers’ extra-inning 9-8 victory over Duke Saturday afternoon at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Duke (16-14, 5-6 ACC) led 8-5 after three innings, but Pitt (12-12, 5-6 ACC) chipped away at the margin with single tallies in the fifth, seventh, ninth and 10th to claim the win. With their team down three runs, Panther relievers Sam Mersing and Isaac Mattson (1-0) combined for seven scoreless innings to give Pitt the opportunity to rally.
Sophomores Kennie Taylor and Griffin Conine both blasted two-run homers, extending Duke’s streak to seven consecutive games with a long ball. Junior Michael Smiciklas pushed his current hit streak to 12 games with a 2-for-4 outing, while freshman Erikson Nicholas was also 2-for-4.
After a scoreless first, the two offenses combined for 13 runs over the second and third frames. Pitt put four runs on the board in the second, receiving a two-run double from Jacob Wright and an RBI single from Yaya Chentouf.
Duke responded in the bottom half on Taylor’s first career home run. Taylor drilled starter Josh Mitchell’s ?-? offering over the wall in left center to put Duke on the board.
Nick Banman tripled and scored in the third on Manny Pazos’ sacrifice bunt. The Blue Devils again had an answer, this time notching six runs on four two-out hits to take an 8-5 lead. Conine smashed his team-leading seventh home run to straight away center, scoring Nichols as well. Junior Jack Labosky doubled prior to a Smiciklas RBI base knock to extend the rally. A walk and hit batter preceded a Chris Proctor two-run single to center. Nichols then added his second single of the frame to score Duke’s eighth run of the game.
Duke’s offense sputtered after the third, thanks to the efforts of Mersing and Mattson. The Blue Devils mustered two hits – both singles – off Mersing in five innings before Mattson tossed two hitless stanzas.
Pitt began to chip away at the margin with a Banman solo shot in the fifth, one of his three hits. A Duke throwing error with two outs in the seventh permitted Alex Amos, who had doubled down the line, to score an unearned run.
Trailing 8-7 in the top of the ninth, Pitt tied the game on Nico Popa’s RBI single up the middle. Duke put two aboard in the bottom half and nearly had the walkoff victory, but second baseman Amos corralled Chase Cheek’s line drive up the middle. The Panthers then benefitted from three singles – two that never left the infield – in the 10th to win the game.
Duke and Pitt meet in the series finale at 1 p.m., Sunday, April 2 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Right-hander Ryan Day takes the hill against fellow righty Josh Falk on ACC Network Extra.