CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The Duke baseball team suffered a 16-6 loss to ninth-ranked North Carolina Sunday afternoon in the series finale at Boshamer Stadium. With the loss, the Tar Heels claim the series sweep while the Blue Devils move to 14-14 on the season and 3-9 in ACC play.
After three scoreless frames to begin the contest, the two teams traded runs across both the fourth and fifth innings. Duke got on the board with two runs in the fourth, while North Carolina plated three runs in the home half to take a 3-2 lead. The Blue Devils scored two in the fifth before the Tar Heels plated five in the bottom half to set the tally at 8-4. The two teams traded runs once again in the seventh as Duke scored a pair of runs in the top half before UNC exploded for eight runs in the home half to put the game out of reach.
The Blue Devils struck first in the series finale, plating a pair of runs in fourth to take the early advantage. Freshman Ethan Murray kicked off things with a leadoff home run, marking his third long ball of the season to cross the game’s first run. One batter later, sophomore Chris Crabtree lined a double to left field to place a runner in scoring position. Senior Kennie Taylor used the next at-bat to collect his 12th double of the season with a ball down the left field line to score Crabtree and put Duke ahead 2-0.
North Carolina answered back in the home half, scoring a trio of runs to take momentum. The Tar Heels used a leadoff walk followed by a two-run home run to score a couple and even the contest at two apiece. After the inning continued with a double, a groundout advanced the runner to third base before a sacrifice fly brought across the inning’s third run to make it a 3-2 ballgame.
Duke added two runs in the fifth to retake the lead and move ahead. The scoring sequence began with back-to-back one-out singles from junior Chase Cheek and sophomore Michael Rothenberg, before both runners advanced 90 feet on a double steal. With runners on second and third, Murray collected his second RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly to right field to plate a run and even the score at three apiece. In the next at-bat, graduate student Kyle Gallagher lined a RBI double to left center, scoring one to give the Blue Devils a 4-3 lead.
The Tar Heels did not take long to respond, pushing across five runs in the bottom of the fifth to take control. The inning began with a leadoff single followed by a RBI double to score the inning’s first run. After a pair of walks loaded the bases, a bases-clearing double scored three for North Carolina before a RBI single plated the frame’s fifth and final run to set the score at 8-4 after five full.
The Blue Devils clawed back, scoring a pair of runs in the seventh to trim the deficit. Murray began things, reaching on a one-out walk, setting up a single up the middle from Crabtree to place runners on the corners. After a wild pitch advanced Crabtree to second, Taylor lined a single through the left side to score two and make it an 8-6 contest heading into the stretch.
North Carolina broke things open with an eight-run seventh inning to extend its lead and put the game out of reach. The Tar Heels used three hits, four walks, one hit-by-pitch and a Duke error to score eight runs and push the advantage to 16-6.
Eight of the nine Blue Devil starters recorded at least one hit in the contest, highlighted by three-hit efforts from Crabtree and Taylor, while Taylor added a team-high three RBI. The trio of Cheek, Murray and Gallagher also contributed multi-hit outings, each finishing with two hits apiece, with Murray adding a two RBI and a team-high tying two runs scored.
Duke returns to the diamond Tuesday afternoon for an exhibition matchup with the Durham Bulls at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which is scheduled for a 6 p.m. first pitch. Following the exhibition contest, the Blue Devils will then travel down to Greenville Wednesday evening for a road matchup against East Carolina.
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