PITTSBURGH – After losing an early lead, Duke’s comeback attempt fell short in an 8-7 setback to Pitt Saturday afternoon at Charles L. Cost Field.
The Blue Devils led 2-0 after one before Pitt (12-9, 2-6 ACC) scored seven runs over the middle three innings. Duke (19-5, 5-3 ACC) plated two in both the seventh and the eighth, but was unable to regain the advantage.
Zack Kone and Joey Loperfido both homered for the Blue Devils. Kone lifted a two-run longball to left in the first and finished the day with three RBI. Loperfido greeted the seventh with a solo bomb to right, the first of the freshman’s two hits on the day.
Junior Jimmy Herron continued his tremendous weekend. The Duke left fielder singled twice and walked twice, reaching base in eight of his 10 plate appearances so far on the weekend.
The Panthers struck for seven runs against starter Mitch Stallings (2-2), a career-high for the Blue Devil senior lefty. The bulk of the damage came in a four-run fourth, featuring five of Pitt’s 11 hits.
Duke got a run back to start the sixth before Pitt countered with a two-run Nick Banman home run.
“We helped them out a little bit on the first run,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “In the fourth, a lot of that was groundball contact. If any one of those groundballs is hit at our infielders it’s a textbook double play and we’re out of the inning. That’s baseball. Then we just didn’t execute an 0-2 pitch. We had 0-2 to Banman and we’ve got to do a better job of getting that pitch where we want it.
After the Blue Devils cut the margin to two in the seventh on Loperfido’s solo shot and an RBI Kone grounder, Banman once again provided the key kit, roping an RBI double in the bottom half.
Duke continued to battle and plated an eighth-inning pair thanks to three walks and RBI from Herron and Chris Proctor before the Blue Devils left the bases loaded.
“We did a good job of keeping the game within striking distance and chipping our way back in,” Pollard said. “Had the tying run in scoring position a couple of times. Didn’t quite make it all the way back. I thought our energy was good. I thought we strung together good at bats late. Took advantage of some free offense and had guys in position. Battled up until the very last pitch of the ballgame.”
Pitt’s Yaya Chentouf allowed two runs over 2.1 innings to earn his fourth save of the season. With the tying run in scoring position in the ninth, Chentouf was able to pick up the game-ending strikeout to preserve the Pitt victory.
Duke and Pitt wrap up the three-game series at 1 p.m., Sunday, March 25 at Charles L. Cost Field. Duke’s Ryan Day is set for his sixth start while Pitt’s starter is yet to be announced.