DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke baseball team fell, 7-6, to Penn in an 11-inning affair Tuesday evening at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. With the loss, the Blue Devils move to 9-3 on the season.
“I told coach (John) Yurkow that he should be very proud of his club,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “I thought they competed great. They competed a lot better than we did and they were a lot tougher than we were in the second half of the ballgame. They absolutely deserved to win this game.”
The Blue Devils struck first in the midweek matchup as the two teams traded runs throughout the first four frames of the contest, with Duke holding a 6-3 advantage. The Quakers went on to score four runs answered, including one run in the top of the 11th to move ahead and secure the victory.
Duke plated three runs across the first and second innings to grab the early lead. The Blue Devils scored one in the first inning, starting with a one-out single from senior Kennie Taylor. After a groundout advanced Taylor to second, freshman Rudy Maxwell sent a single up the middle to place runners on the corners. With a 2-2 count to junior Chris Crabtree, Maxwell broke to second with Taylor coming home, executing a successful double steal attempt to cross the game’s first run.
With one down in the second, freshman Ethan Murray ripped a single up the middle before sophomore Tyler Wardwell reached on a walk to place runners on first and second. One batter later, Taylor collected his second hit of the day with a RBI double down the left field line to plate a couple, pushing Duke’s advantage to 3-0 after two innings of play.
The two teams traded runs in the third and fourth innings, as the Quakers responded in the very next frame, scoring a pair of runs to decrease the deficit and set the score at 3-2. The first four Penn batters reached base in the frame, with the leadoff man reaching on a walk. After a fielder’s choice and a fielding miscue placed runners on first and second for the Quakers, a RBI single plated Penn’s first run of the day. A wild pitch in the next at-bat brought across the second run of the inning, making it a one-run game.
The Blue Devils added a single tally in the third, started with a hit-by-pitch to Crabtree and a walk to junior Erikson Nichols. After stealing third, Crabtree came across to score thanks to a sacrifice fly from Kyle Gallagher, making a 4-2 ballgame.
Two walks in the top of the fourth allowed a pair of Quakers to reach before a flyout placed runners on the corners. A wild pitch in the next at-bat allowed one run to cross for Penn, trimming the lead to 4-3 in one-run contest.
The Blue Devils answered back in the next half frame as junior Chase Cheek kicked off things with a one-out single to center field before advancing to second on a stolen base. One batter later, sophomore Michael Rothenberg collected his 15th RBI of the season with a single through the left side to score one. In the next at-bat, Maxwell notched his second hit of the day with a RBI triple to center, plating another run for Duke to set the score at 6-3.
After a scoreless fifth inning, Penn scored three runs across the sixth and seventh innings to even the contest at six apiece. The Quakers led off the sixth with back-to-back singles followed by a walk to load the bases, before a fielder’s choice and an errant throw brought across a pair of runs. The Penn seventh began with a leadoff walk, followed by a sacrifice bunt to place a runner into scoring position. After a groundout advanced the Penn runner 90 feet, a single up the middle scored the game’s tying run, knotting the game at 6-6.
The two teams went scoreless across the eighth, ninth and 10th innings, which was highlighted by a spectacular relief performance from senior Hunter Davis. Davis thwarted the Quaker offense, holding them hitless across his 3.0 innings of work, allowing only one walk while collecting three strikeouts.
Penn broke through in the 11th, plating run to move ahead and gain the advantage. The Quakers used a leadoff single followed by a sacrifice fly to place a runner into scoring position. In the very next at-bat, a single down the right field line scored one, making it a 7-6 contest, the eventual final.
The Blue Devils did not go quietly, reaching the tying and go-ahead runners in their last at-bat. Crabtree reached on a one-out walk, followed by a single from Nichols to place runners on first and second, before a double play ended things and sealed the Penn victory.
Sophomore Thomas Girard (0-1) suffered the loss for Duke, surrendering two hits and one earned run across his 1.0 frame of work in the 11th inning.
The Blue Devil offense was led by Taylor, who finished 3-for-5 with a double and one run scored, while adding a team-high two RBI. With the effort, Taylor has reached base safely in every game this season. Maxwell also contributed a multi-hit effort, finishing with a pair of knocks and one RBI.
The Blue Devils return to the diamond tomorrow afternoon in the second game with Penn, which is set for a 4 p.m. first pitch at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
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