ATLANTA – The Blue Devils put up four runs in the third but could not hold off Georgia Tech in the end as the Duke baseball team fell 7-4 Friday night in the series opener at Russ Chandler Stadium.
All nine in the Blue Devil order reached base at least once and Duke (17-14, 7-6 ACC) was able to chase Yellow Jacket starter Josh Heddinger after four innings. Duke was not as successful against the Yellow Jacket bullpen, registering one hit over the final four innings. Georgia Tech (17-13, 6-7 ACC) then rallied for two runs in the fourth before breaking out with five in the sixth to take the lead.
“I thought we took really good swings and had really good at bats off of Heddinger,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “We saw the baseball well, we did a good job of laying off the breaking ball in the dirt and we hit a lot of balls hard off of him. I thought we hit a lot of balls hard the rest of the game. We had several loud outs, balls we hit right on the barrel right at somebody. Those balls did a good job of finding holes early. They didn’t as much late, and that’s baseball.”
Senior Mike Rosenfeld reached base three times in four plate appearances, adding two singles and a walk. Eight different Blue Devils registered a hit while junior Andy Perez chipped in with two RBI and senior Matt Berezo also drove in a run.
Senior Drew Van Orden (2-3) pitched 5.2 innings in the loss, allowing five runs on five hits. Van Orden walked one and struck out five batters.
After two scoreless innings, Duke broke out for four runs on three hits and three walks in the third. Redshirt senior Ryan Deitrich started things off with a leadoff walk, followed by a Kenny Koplove line drive to right center. Mark Lumpa walked for the second time in as many at bats ahead of Perez, who picked up two RBI with a base hit through the left side. A third walk loaded the bases again before Lumpa came home on a double play ball. Berezo finished the scoring with a two-out, RBI base hit to plate Perez.
The Blue Devils’ advantage almost ballooned to 6-0 as Deitrich hammered a ball to deep left field. Georgia Tech left fielder Matt Gonzalez made a leaping catch over the wall to rob Deitrich of his third home run of the season.
Van Orden retired the nine of the first 10 batters he faced before Georgia Tech struck for two runs in the fourth. Daniel Spingola was hit by a pitch and reached second on a passed ball before Thomas Smith lined the Yellow Jackets’ first hit of the game, an RBI single to left. Smith would advance to second on a wild pitch, take third on n A.J. Murray base hit and score on a Connor Justus ground ball to the right side.
Georgia Tech amassed five runs on seven hits in the sixth to turn a two-run deficit into a three-run advantage. Spingola drilled the first pitch he saw over the wall in right to set the tone, initially trimming the margin to 4-3. Six consecutive Yellow Jackets reached base with two outs as Georgia Tech also totaled four infield singles in the frame. Ryan Peurifoy, Mott Hyde and Spingola all added RBI base hits while Arden Pabst drew a bases loaded walk for his eighth RBI of the season.
“[Georgia Tech] had 10 hits in the game and five were infield singles,” Pollard said. “Not taking anything away from their club, they did what they needed to do to string together offense, but the odds of giving up three infield hits with two outs like that aren’t great. You credit them; they did enough to win the ballgame. We did a good job of pitching to soft contact, and in that situationt that’s what we’re looking to do. I thought it was tough luck for Van Orden. He deserved a better fate. I thought [Conner] Stevens and [J.R.] Hohlloway did a good job of keeping the ballgame right where it was. Again, some of that in that situation is just misfortune.”
Down three runs, Duke was unable to mount the comeback over the final three frames. Closer Sam Clay registered his second save of the season, retiring the Blue Devils in order in the ninth.
The Blue Devils and the Yellow Jackets are set to meet again Saturday at 4 p.m. from Russ Chandler Stadium.