DURHAM, N.C. – A couple key mistakes proved to be the difference as the Duke baseball team was unable to capitalize on a solid effort from starter Robert Huber, dropping a 4-1 decision to Maryland in the series finale Sunday afternoon at Jack Coombs Field.
Huber (5-5) scattered six hits over eight innings, struck out six and did not walk a batter in the loss. He kept Maryland (25-21, 8-16 ACC) off the scoreboard until the sixth and allowed three runs, two earned, for the game. The Plano, Texas, native retired the first 10 batters he faced and cruised through the first five innings, giving up just one hit in that span. He retired the Terps in order in four of the first five frames and did not allow a hit until the fourth inning.
“We made a lot of mistakes on the bases and we made some mistakes defensively,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “It really took away from the fact that Robert Huber gave us a great start and gave us a chance to win the ball game. [Huber] through the ball great: eight innings, six hits, no walks, six strikeouts. He did everything he needed to do to put us in a position to win the game. We made some mistakes on the bases early that took us out of potential big innings. Give [Jake] Stinnett credit because he pitched a good ball game, but ultimately it came down to some mistakes at key times and that was the difference.”
Duke (25-22, 9-15 ACC) missed a couple scoring opportunities early, but led 1-0 after five. Maryland scored two runs in the sixth and added two more, one on a passed ball in the seventh and the other on a wild pitch in the ninth, to extend its lead to three runs heading to the final frame.
Similar to Friday evening’s pitchers’ duel, the two teams battled through four scoreless frames to start the contest. In the bottom of the fifth, McCabe lined the first pitch he saw to left center and hustled into second with a leadoff double. Junior Mark Lumpa’s sacrifice bunt attempt bounced right in front of home plate, but Maryland third baseman Kevin Martir was unable to handle the throw from catcher Jack Cleary, placing runners at the corners. Freshman Kenny Koplove then roped an RBI single, driving in his 18th RBI of the season to give Duke the 1-0 lead.
A double play halted the Duke threat in the fifth and Maryland answered with a pair of runs in the sixth. A Jose Cuas double and Charlie White single put runners on the corners with one out before a Jordan Hagel sacrifice fly tied the game at one-all. First baseman LaMonte Wade popped the next pitch into shallow left center and the ball fell into the gap between the shortstop and centerfielder for a base hit. White was able to score from first on the play, putting Maryland on top 2-1.
“It was a momentum play,” Pollard said. “Candidly, we can’t allow him to score from first on that. If he’s standing on second and he scores on that with two outs, then we’ll live with that because it was a tough in-between ball that kind of found the right spot. We have to recover more quickly, get the baseball into the infield and make sure he holds up at third base. That was obviously a big difference in the ball game.”
In the seventh, designated hitter Andrew Amaro scored Maryland’s third run after getting on base with a one-out single. Amaro advanced to second on a wild pitch and took third after a dropped third strike forced Duke to throw the batter out at first. Amaro scampered home on a passed ball to put the Terps on top, 3-1.
The Terps added a fourth and final run in the top of the ninth. Kevin Martir singled off sophomore Andrew Istler, on in relief, and found his way to third following a sacrifice bunt and a fielder’s choice. A wild pitch to Blake Schmit allowed Martir to cross home plate and extend the Terps’ lead to three runs.
Maryland starter Jake Stinnett (5-4) was able to retire the Blue Devils in order in the ninth for his first complete game of the season. Stinnett struck out four, walked one and did not allow an earned run over nine innings. The right-hander did not give up a Duke hit after a Perez leadoff single in the sixth and faced just two over the minimum the final four innings.
Duke has a week off before hitting the road for Liberty Sunday, May 5, the first of six straight-road games on the Blue Devils’ schedule.