DURHAM, N.C. – Sophomore center fielder Kennie Taylor's two-run homer in the seventh lifted Duke to a 7-5 come-from-behind victory over Georgia Tech in the series opener Friday evening at Jack Coombs Field.
Duke (25-24, 10-15 ACC) and Georgia Tech (24-23, 9-16 ACC) traded leads through the first sixth innings, resulting in a 5-4 Yellow Jacket advantage heading to the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, Taylor ran a 1-0 pitch out of the yard to put Duke back on top and the Blue Devils extended the lead the following frame.
"I thought it was our best win of the year," said head coach Chris Pollard. "The way we competed to get off the field, the way we competed with two outs and runners on base. Two strike hits. We played outstanding defense on a wet field all day. We did a fantastic job of staying in the moment. We got down twice and we had an answer both times. Just a really good baseball game."
Graduate student Nick Hendrix (1-1) recorded the final out of the seventh to get Duke out of a jam and junior Jack Labosky pitched two scoreless innings in relief to pick up his sixth save of the season.
Taylor's long ball was one of three hits for the Tampa, Fla., native. Overall, Taylor went 3-for-4 with a home run, a double, two RBI, three runs and a stolen base.
Duke broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the third. Taylor doubled, Kone walked and Jalen Phillips singled to load the bases before Chris Proctor lifted a sac fly to left field for the game's opening tally.
Georgia Tech countered the follow frame with Brandt Stallings' fourth home run of the season. Chase Murray singled for the second time in as many at bats and Stallings lifted a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall to put the Yellow Jackets up 2-1.
Kone's two-out, two-run base hit in the fifth once again established a Duke lead, 3-2. A Herron two-out RBI single the following stanza created a 4-2 Blue Devil advantage.
The momentum swung in the Yellow Jackets' favor to start the seventh. A one-out walk and a pair of infield singles against starter Mitch Stallings ultimately allowed Georgia Tech to plate three. Hendrix assumed the mound and induced a fly ball to center, but Duke trailed 5-4 heading to the bottom half.
Stallings pitched 6.2 innings, allowing five runs on nine hits in the no decision. He struck out seven and walked two.
"Mitch was terrific," Pollard said. "There in the seventh, kind of bad luck. That's not taking anything away from Georgia Tech because they had some loud contact early in the game that didn't fall in. We had the two nubbers that were infield base hits and the cue shot off the end of the bat that settled in center field. But Mitch did a good job of continuing to make pitches. I thought he threw the ball well."
After two quick outs, Labosky drew the walk before Taylor's home run.
"Let's not forget that started off with Labosky's at bat," Pollard added. "Two outs and nobody on and he grinded out a two-out walk to get Kennie to the plate. That's huge."
Up 6-5, Duke tacked on an eighth-inning insurance tally on Herron's RBI double to right center.
Duke and Georgia Tech take the field for game two of the series Saturday, May 13 at 1 p.m., on ACC Network Extra.