DURHAM, N.C. – Consecutive singles from Penn in the top of the ninth plated a pair of runs to snap a 1-1 tie and push the Quakers to a 3-1 victory against Duke on Wednesday night inside Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The teams combined for just one extra-base hit and 14 strikeouts as both pitching staffs turned in solid performances.
With a man on second base and two outs in the ninth, back-to-back RBI singles by Penn’s Craig Larsen and Tommy Courtney broke the 1-1 draw and allowed the Quakers to rally past Duke for the second consecutive night. Penn swept the two-game midweek series and improved to 2-3 with the victory while Duke fell to 9-4 on the season.
“You have to tip your hat to Penn,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “They got the big hit when they needed it, and we didn’t. We left a lot of guys on base again tonight. I thought we pitched a lot better, and we did a better job of limiting free offense. We’ll certainly build off of that. We had our opportunities offensively and we just didn’t cash in.”
Before the late-inning drama, the Blue Devils struck first and took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third as senior Kennie Taylor hit a one-out single to right field, moved to second on a groundout and scored on a two-out single through the left side by freshman Rudy Maxwell.
Penn evened the score at 1-1 in the top of the fifth with the help of a Blue Devil error. Matt McGeagh led off reaching on an error, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored when Larsen punched a single through the left side. Courtney followed with a double down the right-field line, but a strikeout and fly out sandwiched around a walk that loaded the bases ended the threat.
In the bottom of the eighth, Duke had its best chance to break the deadlock, loading the bases with two outs, but a pop out ended the threat and kept the game even at 1-1.
Following the defensive hold, the Quakers cashed in with two runs for the 3-1 final. With one out, McGeagh beat out an infield single to second base. A groundout moved McGeagh to second base. Larsen, who finished the contest three-for-four at the dish, delivered his second RBI with a single through the left side. McGeagh was nearly tagged out on the play at the plate, but the ball got away from catcher Maxwell, allowing for a 2-1 lead. Larsen advanced to second on the throw home and scored on Courtney’s second hit of the game, a single to center field, before a fly out ended the frame.
Duke mounted a rally in the bottom of the ninth with consecutive one-out singles from junior Chase Cheek and Taylor, but a pop out and strikeout ended the game.
Taylor finished the evening with a team-high three hits to pace the offense. Sophomore Michael Rothenberg also contributed a pair of hits for Duke.
On the mound for the Blue Devils, graduate student Ben Gross made his first career start, covering three innings of scoreless ball, allowing just two hits and a walk to go along with six strikeouts. Freshman Kyle Salley went the next three frames, yielding an unearned run on two hits, two whiffs and a walk. Junior Matt Mervis spanned two innings, striking out three and surrendering one hit. Sophomore Matt Dockman took the loss, falling to 1-1 on the season. He pitched the ninth, giving up three hits and a walk that led to the pair of runs.
Penn’s Josh Sidney lasted six innings, scattering five hits and four walks, while giving up one run. He struck out one. Kevin Eaise came in for the next two innings, yielding just a hit and a walk with one strikeout. Robby Cerulle came in for the ninth to earn his first save of the campaign.
The Blue Devils open ACC play this weekend with a three-game series at Virginia. First pitch on Friday is slated for 4 p.m. with both Saturday’s and Sunday’s first pitches at 1 p.m.
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