LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Duke’s comeback bid fell short in the second game of the Blue Devils’ series at No. 2 Louisville as the Cardinals held on for a 7-5 victory Saturday afternoon at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Louisville (32-6, 16-4 ACC) plated all seven runs in the second inning before Duke’s bullpen shut out the Cardinals the final seven frames. Duke (21-20, 8-12 ACC) put four runs on the board in the fourth and added another in the fifth, but was unable to claw all the way back.
“Our team competed really well,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “We played really good defense for a second day in a row. We competed well in the batter’s box. I’m especially pleased by the way we grinded out at bats. We had five walks opposite five Ks. We did a great job of extending innings with two outs.”
Louisville sent 12 men to the plate in a seven-run second. The Cardinals registered six singles, including four straight with two outs that all knocked in runs, and took advantage of two hit batters and a walk.
The big inning knocked starter James Ziemba (2-3) from the contest. Ziemba allowed seven runs on seven singles with one walk and one strikeout.
Duke had a man aboard in each of the first three innings, but at first could not crack starter Kade McClure for runs. That trend came to an end in the fourth.
Six consecutive Blue Devils reached with two outs, resulting in four Duke runs. Kennie Taylor started the rally with a single, followed by a Max Miller walk and Erikson Nichols RBI base knock. Chris Proctor walked to load the bases and Herron was hit by a pitch to continue the inning. A Zack Kone single up the middle bounced off second base, allowed two more runs to cross home.
Kone went 2-for-5 on the day with three RBI, while Jimmy Herron reached base in four of his five plate appearances. Herron was 2-for-3 with a walk, an HBP, an RBI and a stolen base. Freshman Erikson Nichols also had a multi-hit day, posting a 2-for-4 outing with two runs and an RBI.
Junior Chris McGrath retired the first 11 batters he faced and tossed a career-high 4.1 shutout innings to keep the game in check. Graduate student Nick Hendrix inherited a bases loaded situation with one out in the seventh, but got Duke off the field without further damage.
“Those two guys pitched phenomenal, held the game right where it was. Can’t say enough good things about Chris McGrath: 4.1 innings, two hits, two strikeouts, no walks. Nick Hendrix did an incredible job to come in and get off us the field right there in a two-run ballgame.”
Duke continued to chip away, adding a sixth-inning tally on Kone’s two-out RBI single.
The Blue Devils struck for one run against Adam Wolf (5-0), but were unable to solve reliever Sam Bordner, who allowed just one baserunner over 2.1 innings. Bordner successfully extended his scoreless inning streak to 22.2 frames this season.
Lincoln Henzman then worked a 1-2-3 top of the ninth for his 12th save of the season.
‘[Louisville] brought in their three best bullpen arms in Wolf, Bordner and Henzman,” Pollard added. “I’m sure when it was 7-0 in the second, they were hoping they would be able to get through this game without having to bring those guys in. That’s a really good job by our offense of staying in the moment and competing and making it really hard on them. You have to tip your hat because the two guys they brought in in the end there were very good and we couldn’t generate enough against those guys.”
Duke and Louisville reconvene for the series finale at 12:45 p.m., Sunday April 23. Duke right-hander Ryan Day opposes lefty Louisville Nick Bennett on ACC Network Extra.