DURHAM, N.C. - Tied 2-2 after three innings, Virginia Tech outscored Duke 4-0 the rest of the way to secure a 6-2 victory in the series finale Sunday afternoon at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The Hokies totaled 10 hits on the day, compared to nine for the Blue Devils, but were able to come up with key hits throughout the game, plating four of their six runs with two outs.
"Each game [this weekend] was different," said head coach Chris Pollard. "Friday, it was a back-and-forth affair. Yesterday we walked too many guys. The difference in today's game was that [Virginia Tech] got hits with two outs and we didn't. Four of their runs came with two outs. We had the same opportunities four times when we had guys out there with two out and we didn't come up with the hit. That was the difference."
Junior right-hander Robert Huber (2-2) struck out a career-high eight batters, but the Plano, Texas, native took the loss after allowing three runs on six hits over 5.2 innings. Virginia Tech's Joe Mantiply (1-0) recorded the win, allowing two runs on six hits. The Hokie left-hander struck out three in five innings of work.
Sophomore second baseman Andy Perez completed an outstanding weekend with a 3-for-4 performance, including two doubles and a triple, today. Over the three-game set, Perez went 8-for-14 (.571) with two doubles, a triple and a home run, good for a 1.071 slugging percentage.
Perez continued his first inning success with a leadoff triple to center field in the bottom of the first. The Roswell, Ga., native, who has reached base in the opening frame in five straight games, raised his average to .461 when leading off the first inning for the Blue Devils.
"If we could clone him we'd be in good shape" Pollard said. "He's going up there and giving us really competitive at bats. That's what a lot of hitting is about. It's a will and a want-to. Right now he's going up there and he's got a lot of fight when he gets in the batter's box, and we need more guys to fight like that."
The Perez triple would pay off for Duke as he scored the first run of the game a batter later. Senior Jeff Kremer laced a base hit through the right side to put Duke on top, 1-0.
Virginia Tech responded to the 1-0 deficit with a pair of runs in the top of the second. A single and two walks loaded the bases with two outs before right fielder Kyle Wernicki delivered a two-run base hit through the left side to put the Hokies up, 2-1.
Duke put another run on the board in the bottom of the third to tie the game at two-all. Freshman Kenny Koplove led off with a single, then advanced and second and third on back-to-back groundouts to second. That brought junior Mike Rosenfeld to the plate with two down, and the Blue Devil captain came up with the RBI single to tie the game at two runs apiece.
Following a pair of scoreless innings, Virginia Tech regained the lead in the top of the sixth. Huber hit Mark Zagunis to start the frame and the Hokie designated hitter reached third on a Duke throwing error as he stole second. Second baseman Brendon Hayden drove in the go-ahead run with a single up the middle.
The Hokies added a fourth run in the seventh on a Tyler Horan solo shot to right field. Center fielder Andrew Rash drove a ball over the left field wall to lead off the eighth, extending Virginia Tech's lead to 5-2. Hayden followed with a double and would ultimately score the Hokies' sixth and final run after a Perez two-out base hit.
The Blue Devil offense was unable to get anything going off Hokie right-hander Clark Labitan, who came on in relief in the sixth. A fifth-year senior, Labitan struck out four while giving up three hits over four scoreless innings for his fourth save of the season.
Next up, Duke faces in-state opponent Charlotte at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park Wednesday at 6 p.m. The Blue Devils will then travel to Clemson for a three-game series over the weekend, starting with a 6:30 p.m., game Friday.