DURHAM, N.C. – Duke baseball head coach Chris Pollard netted his 600th career win as sophomore Joey Loperfido’s walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning delivered junior Matt Mervis with the game-winning run to lead the Duke baseball team a 10-9 victory and weekend sweep of Pittsburgh on Sunday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
“I’m really honored,” said Pollard. “I’ve been around a lot of really good coaches and a lot of really good players—they deserve the credit. I’m really lucky. We’ve got the best staff we’ve ever had with (Josh) Jordan, (Jason) Stein, (Dusty) Blake) and (Chris) Gordon. It’s the by-product of the fact that we’ve had great players and coaches.”
Mervis set career highs with four runs batted in, four hits and three runs scored and smacked his fourth home run of the campaign. Loperfido helped the Blue Devils to the weekend sweep with the game-deciding RBI in each of the last two games.
Duke (17-15, 6-9 ACC) captured its first three-game ACC sweep since March 30-April 1, 2017, versus Notre Dame. The Blue Devils led 9-6 going into the ninth Sunday before the Panthers (8-22, 2-13 ACC) knotted the contest with two home runs in the frame, setting up Loperfido for the role of hero.
The Blue Devils used four pitchers to complete the victory with freshman Cooper Stinson getting the start. He threw 2.1 innings, giving up two runs on three hits and three walks with four strikeouts. Senior Hunter Davis went the next 1.2 frames, yielding one hit and two walks to go along with a trio of whiffs. Sophomore Bryce Jarvis went 4.2 innings, allowing seven runs on eight hits and a pair of walks while fanning seven. Junior Eli Herrick got the win to improve to 1-1, allowing just a hit by pitch in 1.1 innings.
Pittsburgh took an early lead with a pair of runs in the top of the third. A leadoff walk to Sky Duff and bunt single by Bryce O’Farrell put runners on first and second. Following a foul out on a bunt attempt, Ron Washington Jr. singled to left to load the bases. Kyle Hess was hit by a pitch to force in Duff for the first run. Nico Popa followed with a ground ball and the throw getting away from second base, allowing O’Farrell to score and keep the bases loaded. A strikeout and diving stop and throw by third baseman Erikson Nichols halted the scoring.
After stranding three Panthers in the top of the fourth, Duke rallied in the bottom of the inning with three runs to take a 3-2 advantage. Graduate student Kyle Gallagher led off with a single to left and junior Chase Cheek followed with a walk. Nichols moved both up a base with a sacrifice bunt and the pair came home on a double high off the wall in left from Mervis. After a pop out, Mervis advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on another wild pitch. A groundout capped the frame.
Pittsburgh responded immediately with three runs in the top of the fifth to regain the lead at 5-3. After a fly out started the frame, a double down the right-field line by David Yanni and walk to Cole MacLaren put two on with one down. A strikeout followed, but a Duff single to left plated Yanni to even the game at 3-3. O’Farrell then doubled to deliver MacLaren and Duff. A groundout ended the threat.
Duke returned the favor in the bottom of the inning with four runs of its own to go back on top, 7-5. Loperfido was hit by the second pitch of the inning. After a pair of strikeouts, Gallagher walked and Cheek singled to center, driving in Loperfido. Nichols followed with a bases-clearing double down the left-field line that put the Blue Devils in front at 6-5. Mervis came through with a single to right that plated Nichols for the two-run cushion. A strikeout closed the inning.
The Panthers used their own two-out magic to scratch a run back in the top of the eighth to trail 7-6. Connor Perry drew a one-out walk and scored on a two-out double to right field by Hess. A fly out to the warning track in left center capped the scoring.
The Blue Devils pushed two runs across in the eighth for a 9-6 advantage. After a leadoff homer from Mervis, freshman Ethan Murray singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single to left field from senior Kennie Taylor. A groundout into a double play ended the threat.
In the top of the ninth, Jarvis gave up a pair of home runs to knot the game at nine each. With one out, MacLaren hit a solo shot to left to make it 9-7. After a strikeout, Duff singled up the middle before an O’Farrell game-tying long ball to left center. Herrick came in and recorded a strikeout to end the frame.
Duke registered the win in the bottom of the 10th as Mervis singled through the right side, moved to second on a Murray sacrifice bunt, scooted to third on an infield single by sophomore Michael Rothenberg and scored on Loperfido’s single through the right side.
On the mound, the Panthers used six pitchers with none going more than 2.1 frames. Christian Camancho threw the first 1.2 innings, holding Duke to one hit and striking out one before departing due to injury. Chris Gomez went the next 2.1 frames, surrendering three runs on three walks, two hits and a whiff. David Moore recorded two outs and allowed four runs on three hits and a walk to go along with two strikeouts. William Kirwan lasted 2.1 frames, limiting the Blue Devils to two runs on three hits with a trio of whiffs. Chris Cappas recorded one out and walked one. Chase Smith (1-4) took the loss with two innings pitched, five hits allowed and the game-deciding run surrendered.
The Blue Devils return to action Tuesday at 6 p.m. against N.C. Central at Durham Athletic Park.
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