GREENSBORO, N.C. – On the verge of advancing to the first ACC Tournament championship game in program history, Duke’s comeback bid fell just short as top-seeded Miami edged the fourth-seeded Blue Devils, 6-5, in 12 innings Saturday afternoon at NewBridge Bank Park. Freshman Cris Perez tied the game with a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth before the Hurricanes plated two runs in the 12th and hung on for the win.
In the hunt for its first ACC title since 1961, the Blue Devils trailed 4-2 heading to the bottom of the ninth, but would not go down quietly. Perez tied the score at four-all with a one-out, two-run blast off Miami closer and former high school teammate Bryan Garcia (6-4). The home run was not only the first allowed by Garcia but also the first collegiate homer for Perez.
Following Perez’s heroics in the ninth, Miami’s Jacob Heyward led off the 12th with a double and scored the tie-breaking run on a wild pitch. Zack Collins followed with a solo homer for what proved to be a key insurance run in the end.
After Miami (41-17) regained the two-run advantage, Duke (33-25) rallied for a run on a walk and two base hits, the second an RBI single off the bat of Mike Rosenfeld. Miami’s Javi Salas recorded the final out with the tying run at third to pick up his first save of the season.
The loss prevented Duke from reaching the ACC Baseball Championship final for the first time since the even began in 1973.
“First off, give credit to Miami for continuing to fight till the very end,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “They’ve got a very good club. They certainly have a team capable of going to the College World Series. I’m certainly proud of our team and proud of our fight. I’m not disappointed in them; I’m disappointed for them. These guys fought like crazy. We just came up a run short.”
Garcia (6-4) worked three full innings to take the win. Junior Andrew Istler (8-8) entered the game in the 12th and suffered the loss for the Blue Devils.
Miami jumped out to an early advantage in the first. Dale Carey led off with an infield single and David Thompson added a base hit of his own with two outs. Carey scored on a balk call, and Willie Abreau doubled home Thompson for a quick 2-0 Hurricane lead.
Duke loaded the bases with no outs in the second, but could only push one across on a two-out Mark Lumpa RBI walk. Starter Bryan Radziewski induced a groundball to second for the final out to minimize the damage.
The Hurricanes went up 3-1 in the fifth as Heyward led off with an infield single, took second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Tyler Palmer’s single to right. Heyward swiped his hand across the plate, just avoiding the tag from Rosenfeld.
Lumpa walked for the second time in as many plate appearances in the bottom half and scored on Chris Marconcini’s clutch two-out single up the middle.
Miami pushed another run across in the top of the eighth to go ahead 4-2. Collins opened the inning with a base hit and ultimately scored on Brandon Lopez’s sacrifice fly to center.
Perez’s dramatic homer in the ninth gave the Blue Devils’ a second chance but Miami had the answer in the end.
“It’s a sign of great senior leadership that we have,” Pollard said. “They answered the call every time their backs have been up against the wall all year. They did it on Thursday. I thought we did it again today. I don’t have any issues with our effort or our fight. We fought to the very last pitch, and I’m really proud of them.”
Duke will learn its postseason fate Monday, May 26 as the NCAA Tournament selection show airs on ESPNU at noon.