GREENSBORO, N.C. – Trailing 4-2 entering the top of the ninth, the Duke Blue Devils scored three runs in the inning, highlighted by a two-run blast by third baseman Brett Bartles, for a 5-4 come-from-behind victory over UNC Greensboro on Wednesday night at UNCG Baseball Stadium. With the win, the Blue Devils improve to 27-20 on the season while the Spartans fall to 25-24.
Catcher Matt Williams singled up the middle to begin the ninth. Two batters later, Bartles drove an 0-1 offering to straightaway center for a game-tying two-run shot. It was the seventh home run of the season for Bartles and the 14th of his career. The home run was only the third long ball ever hit over the batter’s eye in deep center at UNCG Baseball Stadium which stands 410 feet from home plate. Leftfielder Alexander Hassan drew a walk following Bartles’ home run and shortstop Gabriel Saade sent an RBI-triple to left center to drive in the eventual game-winning run.
UNC Greensboro took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth. First baseman Ricky Orton sent a two-out single up the middle to get the Spartans going in the inning. Leftfielder Greg Feltes followed with a single to left and rightfielder Sean Snell was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Designated hitter Brandon Harvey then lined a two-run double down the left field line to score Orton and Feltes.
The Spartans added a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth to go ahead 4-0. Second baseman Tim Carrier was hit by a pitch before advancing to second on a wild pitch with one out in the frame. Two batters later, third baseman Guy Welsh laced an RBI-single up the middle, scoring Carrier. Orton followed with an RBI-double to left center to bring in Welsh.
A huge bolt of lighting beyond the outfield wall caused a 52-minute delay with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.
Duke got on the board in the top of the eighth to make it a 4-2 ballgame. Saade drew a one-out walk before advancing to second on a passed ball. Two batters later, junior Jonathan Nicolla came in to pinch hit for second baseman Kyle Butler and belted a two-run jack to left center. It was the first home run of the season for Nicolla and the seventh of his career.
Freshman Michael Ness was the beneficiary of the three-run ninth, improving his record to 4-3 on the season. Ness held the Spartans to one hit in 3.1 scoreless innings while striking out two. Freshman Michael Seander then worked a scoreless ninth to pick up his ninth save of the year. Seander’s ninth save moves him into second place on Duke’s single-season chart and into a tie for third place on the career saves list.
Centerfielder Jimmy Gallagher went 2-for-4 to pace the Blue Devils at the plate. Bartles was 1-for-4 with a homer, Nicolla went 1-for-1 with a home run and Saade finished 1-for-3 with an RBI-triple and a run scored. Hassan went 1-for-3 with a run scored, Williams was 1-for-4 with a run scored and first baseman Nate Freiman finished 1-for-3 in the win.
The Blue Devils will host Virginia Tech this weekend at Jack Coombs Field in their final home ACC series of the season. Friday’s game will start at 7 p.m., Saturday’s game is at 2 p.m. and Sunday’s series finale will begin at 1 p.m. Duke will then host North Carolina A&T on Tuesday at noon in their final home game of the year. The Blue Devils close out the regular season with a trip to Miami May 17-19.