GAINESVILLE, Fla. - A three-run home run in the bottom of the first proved to be the difference as the Duke baseball team fell to 13th-ranked Florida, 4-2, Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium at Perry Field
Florida (1-1) took advantage of a slow start for the Blue Devils in the first as UF leadoff hitter Harrison Bader reached on an error and Richie Martin followed with a walk. Gator second baseman Chris Turgeon delivered the three-run shot off the right field foul pole to give Florida an early advantage in game two of the three-game series. With one out and runners on the corners, Duke starter Drew Van Orden struck out UF's Zach Powers and picked off Taylor Gushue at first to end the inning.
Despite the early momentum in Florida's favor, the Duke (1-1) pitching staff settled down after the early setback and limited the Gators to just one run on four hits the rest of the way.
Van Orden (0-1) struck out three and did not allow a run after the first, but took the loss after giving up three runs on four hits in 3.1 innings pitched. Right-handers Chase Bebout and Dalton Brown combined to pitch 2.1 scoreless innings in relief while freshman Nick Hendrix made his collegiate debut, allowing one run on one hit in 2.0 innings.
"I thought we competed really well," said head coach Chris Pollard. "I thought we learned something about ourselves today. We took their best punch right there in the first inning. They had three runs before we had an out in the ball game and we learned how to take a punch, get back off the mat and compete the rest of the way. We did a great job of fighting to get ourselves back in the ball game and have a chance. The credit really goes to our bullpen. Our bullpen pitched great. To come in and basically [give up] one fluke run, a flare single over the first baseman's head and then a bang-bang play at third base on the tag ... that's the only run [Florida] had after the first three batters of the game. That's a great job by our bullpen."
Duke answered in the top of the fourth as catcher Mike Rosenfeld started things off with a single and proceeded to steal second and advance to third on a throwing error by the Florida catcher. Designated hitter Chris Marconcini then hammered the 2-2 pitch from Gator starter Tucker Simpson over the wall in left for his fifth career home run to make it a 3-2 game. Simpson threw 4.0 innings in total, allowing two runs on two hits while striking out three and walking two.
A single and a pair of Blue Devil errors allowed the Gators to load the bases in the bottom of the fifth, but Duke was able to escape unscathed. Left-hander Remy Janco came on in relief and got Florida's Cody Dent to fly out to left before Bebout recorded the final out of the inning, throwing out Martin on a bunt attempt with the bases loaded.
The Blue Devils were not as fortunate the following inning as Gushue drew a walk off Hendrix and Cory Reid followed with a flare single to right. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with one out and Dent sent a fly ball to left to plate Gushue and extend the Gators' lead to 4-2.
Left fielder Andrew Istler would lead off the eighth with a single, but the Blue Devils were unable to push a run across in the either the eighth or the ninth as lefty Johnny Magliozzi came on to record the save for Florida.
Parker Dancieu (1-0) earned the win for the Gators, allowing just two hits in 3.2 scoreless innings.
After two games this season, Rosenfeld is 4-for-8 with a double, a triple, two runs scored and an RBI. Marconicini's homer in the fourth was the second by a Blue Devil in as many games as third baseman Jordan Betts also registered a two-run shot in game one Friday evening. Betts and Istler both added a hit for Duke Saturday.
Duke and Florida close out the series Sunday with game three set for a 12 p.m., start from McKethan Stadium. The Blue Devils play host to Bucknell next Friday in Duke's home opener.