CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. John Barr capped a late comeback with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth to lead No. 11 Virginia to a 10-9 win over Duke Saturday afternoon at Davenport Field that evened the series at one game apiece.
Virginia (36-10-1, 14-9-1 ACC) entered the eighth inning trailing 9-3, but scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth before freshman Danny Hultzen tied the game with a first-pitch home run in the bottom of the ninth. Cleanup hitter Dan Grovatt then legged out a triple and scored the winning run on Barr’s walk-off single down the third base line.
Barr’s single erased a 7.1-inning, four-run start by Duke senior Andrew Wolcott, who walked away with a no-decision after giving up just six hits and a walk. Wolcott outdueled Virginia Starter Andrew Carraway, who Duke (32-19, 13-13 ACC) lit up for eight runs in four-plus innings, but got his shot at a win washed away when Virginia scored six runs four earned off of reliever Dennis O'Grady (1-1).
Duke built its six-run lead on three home runs, including a three-run shot from senior Matt Williams, a two-run blast from senior Nate Freiman and a solo bomb from freshman Will Piwnica-Worms. But despite hitting multiple homers for the fifth straight ACC game, Duke scored just once over the final four innings off of the Cavalier relief trio of Tyler Wilson, Matt Packer and Kevin Arico (2-2).
The Cavaliers also got a pair of solo homers from Steven Proscia and Hultzen, but did most of their damage with four singles, two walks and a hit batter in the five-run eighth inning. Hulzten’s homer and Grovatt’s triple in the ninth were only the second and third extra-base hits of the game for Virginia, which tagged 12 total hits.
Freiman’s fifth-inning long ball was his ACC-leading 17th homer of the season and extended a streak of five straight ACC games with a home run. It was also the 40th career home run for Freiman, who became only the second Blue Devil in school history to reach the 40-home run plateau and now sits within two homers of tying Duke’s all-time record.
In the first inning, Carraway gave up a leadoff single to Duke shortstop Jake Lemmerman, but stranded him on second base with three straight strikeouts. That would be the first of two hits in the game for Lemmerman, who hit leadoff and stole his team-leading 13th base of the season in the first inning. After getting himself into scoring position, however, Carraway used the outside part of the plate to punch out three straight hitters to end the inning.
Duke got on the board in the second after a three-run home run by Williams capped a five-run second inning that featured four hits. Williams’ two-out bomb was the last of those and put Duke on top 5-0. Carraway struck out his fourth straight batter to open the inning, but then grazed Piwnica-Worms with a first-pitch breaking ball before giving up three straight hits to 7-8-9 hitters Gabriel Saade, Joe Pedevillano and Ryan McCurdy. Piwnica-Worms went from first to third on Saade’s single into left field and then came home on another base hit to the same spot by Pedevillano. McCurdy then followed with a base hit through the right side that sent Saade around third and the plate. Virginia right fielder Grovatt fielded McCurdy’s single in shallow right field and got the ball to the plate in time, but a collision between Saade and catcher John Hicks ensued in front of the plate, which caused Hicks to drop the ball. Saade slapped the plate after the collision to give Duke its second run of the game just before Williams crushed his fifth home run of the season to the left field gap to increase the lead to 5-0.
Proscia got one of those runs back for the Cavaliers in their next turn, however, with a solo home run into the left field bleachers that cut the lead to 5-1. It was the second homer of the series for Proscia and the sixth combined home run of the series for both teams. Wolcott brushed off the long ball, however, and retired the next three batters he faced striking out two to take the game into the fourth inning with Duke ahead 5-1.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, Carraway also settled into a groove and retired seven straight hitters from the end of the second until the fourth inning. Duke got just one ball out of the infield during that span a flyout to shallow right field to end the second inning and grounded out in five consecutive at bats to end the fourth.
Phil Gosselin broke up Wolcott’s retired batter streak with a leadoff single in the bottom of the fourth and eventually came around to score on a two-out single from Hicks. His run was the first of two in the inning for the Cavaliers, who scored on a two-out balk to cut Duke’s lead to 5-3. With men at the corners after Hicks’ single, Wolcott faked a pickoff to third and then spun and fired to first base. Hicks was caught off first base and then trigged a rundown, but the play was called dead shortly after due to Wolcott’s balk. Proscia, who moved to third on Hicks’ single after being hit by a pitch, was granted a free pass to the plate on the miscue before Wolcott induced a ground ball to end the inning.
But just as soon as Virginia cut the deficit to two runs, Freiman increased Duke’s lead back to four with a two-run homer that was part of a three-run fifth inning. With Williams on first base after an infield single, Freiman fell behind 1-2 in the count against Carraway, but then took two balls before pulling an outside fastball over the left-center field wall. Freiman’s homer was one of four consecutive knocks by the Blue Devils, who also got an ensuing double from Jeremy Gould who extended his hitting streak to 14 games and an RBI single from right fielder Alex Hassan. Saade reached with another base knock to left field, but Wilson, who entered the game just before giving up Hassan’s run-scoring single, stranded Saade and Hassan on second and third to keep Duke’s lead at 8-3.
Wolcott got through the fifth and sixth innings with little trouble and remained stingy with his pitches, boasting a pitch count of 76 heading into the seventh inning. Through those first six innings of work, the senior right-hander struck out four batters without surrendering a walk.
Duke went to the long ball again in the top of the seventh and jumped ahead 9-3 on a leadoff homer from Piwnica-Worms. Looking for his first hit of the day, Piwnica-Worms turned on an inside fastball from the left-handed Packer and sent it just over the left field wall for his third home run of the season. Piwnica-Worms’ homer was the third of the day for the Blue Devils, who have now tagged 16 long balls in their last seven ACC games. Duke had just 13 home runs in the first 19 conference games before tagging multiple bombs in five consecutive ACC games, including Saturday’s win.
Wolcott finally surrendered his first walk in the bottom of the seventh, but it did little damage. He was able to work through the inning without surrendering a hit to hold Virginia scoreless for the third straight frame.
Duke’s five-run lead quickly evaporated, however, as the Cavaliers tagged reliever Dennis O'Grady for four of the five runs they would score in the bottom of the eighth to come within one run of tying the game. Wolcott was pulled in favor of O’Grady after he threw his 107th pitch of the game, but the pitching change was just what the Cavaliers needed to break out of their slump. Virginia would score three runs and put five consecutive batters on base before O’Grady was able to record the second out of the inning. But with the bases still loaded, O’Grady misfired on an attempted pickoff to first base and sent the ball into foul territory, which allowed two runs to score and Duke’s lead to fall to 9-8. With the tying run at second and the go-ahead run on first after a walk to Parker, O’Grady finally got out of the inning by getting Gosselin to fly out to left field.
Virginia used Arico to get through the top of the ninth against the middle of Duke’s lineup, bringing the game into the bottom of the ninth with Duke leading by just one run. Hultzen quickly erased that deficit with a first-pitch home run off of O’Grady to start the ninth, which was then followed by a triple in the gap from Grovatt. With the winning run on third base, Duke opted to intentionally walk Proscia to get to Hicks, who struck out looking for the first out. Another intentional walk to Tyler Cannon ensued that loaded the bases for Barr, who took the first pitch he saw and sent it down the third base line against a drawn-in Duke infield.
With the series tied at 1-1, Duke and Virginia will battle for the three-game set in game three on Sunday, May 10, at 1 p.m. Virginia will start right-hander Robert Morey (1-0, 2 saves, 3.03 ERA), while Duke has not announced a starter.