NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Duke fell in the series finale at Vanderbilt 9-1 Sunday afternoon at Hawkins Field. The Commodores held a one-run lead the first four frames before plating seven runs over the fifth and sixth to put the game out of reach.
Left fielder Austin Martin’s leadoff blast began a two-run bottom of the first for the Commodores. A couple of subsequent hits and a pair of walks plated Vanderbilt’s second run before Mitch Stallings induced a 4-6-3 double play to minimize the damage.
Stallings (0-1) settled in following the first, ultimately tossing four complete. The senior lefty allowed two runs on five hits with four strikeouts and two walks.
"Mitch is working his way back to a pitch count," said head coach Chris Pollard. "We knew probably 70 was about the limit for him today. Had the long first inning but he did a really good job of minimizing the damage in the first. Then he comes out and puts three clean innings on the board .We’re in a 2-1 ballgame right there in the middle innings."
Duke got on the board in the third as senior Jack Labosky lifted an RBI double to deep left center, plating Herron who was hit by a pitch. The game remained a 2-1 affair until the bottom of the fifth.
Despite solid contact, the Blue Devils went 1-for-10 with runners on over the first five innings. Vanderbilt second baseman Ethan Paul snared two Duke line drives with a runner in scoring position to preserve the one-run lead.
Vanderbilt had not fared better with runners on until Philip Clarke’s two-out flare single in the fifth scored two. The Commodores then broke the game open with a five-run sixth, using four singles and a Duke error to inflict the damage.
"Two big plays were ultimately the difference in the ballgame," Pollard added. "Fly ball to shallow left field with two outs and we have a chance to get off the field. We didn’t make that play in a 2-1 ballgame. [Next inning] we got the exact set of circumstances we wanted on the bunt defense and executed everything perfectly except the pitch and catch. We execute right there, that inning does not turn out to be a big inning."
In his collegiate debut, freshman catcher Michael Rothenberg went 2-for-3 to lead Duke at the plate.
Next up, the Blue Devils are set for their home opener Tuesday, Feb. 20. Duke welcomes North Carolina Central to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park for a 4 p.m., first pitch on ACC Network Extra.