CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The Duke baseball team fell, 1-0, to ninth-ranked North Carolina in a game dominated by pitching Friday evening at Boshamer Stadium. With the loss, the Blue Devils move to 14-12 on the season, and 3-7 in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
“I thought (Tyler) Baum was really good for them,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “Ben Gross did a good job of matching him. I was so impressed with Ben and his ability to execute his secondary stuff over the second half of the ballgame. That was the most he’s pitched off of his off-speed. He was a complete pitcher out there tonight, and he gave us an unbelievable start.”
The two teams combined for only five hits while striking out a total of 12 times in a game that favored pitching. A sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh provided North Carolina with the game’s only scoring play for the 1-0 win. Tar Heel starter Tyler Baum earned the win with a career-high 8.2 scoreless frames, while reliever Austin Love recorded the final out to close the game and notch the save.
Duke starter Ben Gross (3-2) suffered the loss, despite another solid outing in his second consecutive Friday night start for the Blue Devils. The graduate student right-hander worked a season-high 6.1 innings, allowing only one earned run on two hits and two walks while striking out four. Senior Hunter Davis followed Gross, going the final 1.2 scoreless frames, allowing only one hit and one walk to keep the game in striking distance.
The Tar Heels plated their lone run of the contest in the bottom of the seventh, which proved to be the difference. With one down, a wild pitch on a strikeout swinging allowed a UNC runner to reach. After the Blue Devils made a call to the bullpen, North Carolina executed a hit-and-run in the next at-bat to place runners on first and third. After a walk loaded the bases, a sacrifice fly allowed the game’s first run to cross, to set the score at 1-0, the eventual final.
The Blue Devils reached the tying run in the ninth, but were unable to capitalize on the opportunity to even things up.
Duke and North Carolina return to the diamond tomorrow afternoon for game two of the series, which is set for a 3 p.m. first pitch at Boshamer Stadium. The Blue Devils will look to sophomore right-hander Bryce Jarvis, while the Tar Heels will counter with a righty of its own in junior Austin Bergner.
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