DURHAM, N.C. – A two-out single to left field in the top of the eighth inning from Zach Britton drove in the game-winning run for No. 13 Louisville on Saturday afternoon as the Cardinals downed No. 24 Duke, 2-1, at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Britton’s hit backed a seven-inning quality start from Nick Bennett, who scattered six hits and struck out four Blue Devils in the performance.
Louisville (15-4, 4-1 ACC) captured the series and has won 10 of its past 11 games while the Blue Devils (12-7, 2-3 ACC) suffered their first weekend series loss of the campaign. Duke’s offense was paced by junior Chase Cheek with a pair of hits.
Both starters turned in quality outings as Duke sophomore Bryce Jarvis went 6.2 innings, allowing just one unearned run on three hits and a trio of walks to go along with seven strikeouts. Senior Hunter Davis (0-2) relieved and took the loss, covering the final 2.1 frames and yielding one run on two hits and a strikeout.
After Bennett, Louisville handed the ball off to Michael McAvene, who retired all six Blue Devils he faced, four via strikeout, to earn his first save of the season.
Tyler Fitzgerald got Louisville out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as he hit a one-out single to left field and moved to second on a failed pickoff attempt that had Jarvis’ throw to first base end up down the right-field line. With two outs, Fitzgerald advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored as sophomore catcher Michael Rothenberg’s throw was wide of the bag and went into left field.
Duke and Louisville both left runners in scoring position in the bottom of the third and top of the fourth, respectively. The Blue Devils responded to the defensive hold, aided by an inning-ending diving catch in center field by senior Kennie Taylor, to even the action at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth. Graduate student Kyle Gallagher led off beating out an infield single to shortstop. On the next pitch, junior Erikson Nichols singled through the left side, moving Gallagher to second. A Rothenberg sacrifice bunt moved the pair up a base before junior Matt Mervis’ sacrifice fly plated Gallagher. Bennett limited the damage with a groundout.
The Blue Devils nearly took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth, but were held off the board. Cheek led off with a single. After a lineout, Cheek took off for second on a steal. Bennett threw over to first for a pickoff on the play and first baseman Logan Wyatt’s throw toward second went wide of the bag and into left center, allowing Cheek advance to third. Taylor hit into a fielder’s choice with ground ball to third baseman Alex Binelas, who threw home to get Cheek at the plate. Freshman Rudy Maxwell kept the inning alive by beating out an infield single to the shortstop, but a lineout to the second baseman ended the threat.
Louisville went quietly until the top of the seventh, when it loaded the bases with two outs. After a strikeout started the frame, Danny Oriente doubled to right center. A fly out followed, but then Zeke Pinkham walked and Jared Poland was hit by a pitch to fill the bases with two outs. Davis entered the retired Binelas on a fielder’s choice groundout to keep the game even at 1-1.
After retiring Duke in order in the bottom of the seventh, the Cardinals scratched across the final run of the contest with Britton’s single. Jake Snider led off with a single up the middle and moved to second on a fly out. Following a strikeout, Britton delivered the ball into left to plate Snider.
The squads close the series Sunday at 1 p.m. inside Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Junior Bill Chillari (2-0) will be on the mound for the Blue Devils while Bryan Hoeing (2-2) takes the ball for the Cardinals.
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