LYNCHBURG, Va. – The Duke baseball team fell to Liberty, 3-2, in a hard-fought contest Tuesday evening at Liberty Baseball Stadium. With the loss, the Blue Devils move to 29-22 on the season, while Liberty claims the season series between the two schools and improve to 36-16 on the campaign.
The two teams traded runs throughout the early innings of the midweek matchup, resulting in a tied 2-2 contest after four frames of action. The Flames broke through with one run in the sixth inning to move ahead, which proved to be the difference in the ballgame.
Duke struck first in the midweek matchup, plating a single tally in the first to grab the early 1-0 lead. With one down in the inning, senior Kennie Taylor lined a single up the middle before junior Matt Mervis sent a single through the right side to place runners on the corners. Freshman Ethan Murray used the next at-bat to send a fly ball to deep right field, allowing Taylor tag up and score the game’s first run.
Liberty didn’t take long to respond, answering with a run of its own in the second to even the score. Facing a 3-1 count, Will Wagner sent a ball over the right field wall to lead off the home half of the second to make it a 1-1 contest.
The Flames returned in the third to put up another one-run inning to move ahead. The inning began with a hit-by-pitch followed by a walk to put runners on first and second. Two outs later, a single to right field allowed one run to cross to put Liberty in front, 2-1, after three innings of play.
The Blue Devils answered back with a run in the very next half to knot things at two apiece. Facing a new pitcher to begin the inning, sophomore Michael Rothenberg crushed a ball over the right field wall to make it a 2-2 ballgame. The home run marked Rothenberg’s team-leading eighth long ball of the season, and his second homer in as many games.
Liberty regained its lead with one run in the sixth to break the tie. The Flames used a leadoff double followed by a single to place a pair of runners on to begin the inning. With runners on the corners, an infield single allowed a runner to score to put the Flames ahead, 3-2, the eventual final.
The Blue Devils used a combination of six arms in the ballgame, with freshman Cooper Stinson making his 13th start of the season. Fellow freshman Jack Carey was the first arm out of the bullpen for Duke, followed by the foursome of sophomore Matt Dockman, junior Eli Herrick, freshman Aaron Beasley and junior Matt Mervis to close out the game. Herrick (2-1) suffered the loss, yielding one earned run on three hits while collecting one strikeout across his 0.1 inning of work.
Offensively, Duke was led by the duo of Taylor and sophomore Chris Crabtree who each contributed multi-hit outings, finishing with two hits apiece.
Following the midweek contest with the Flames, Duke will head to Sunshine State for the regular season finale with 12th-ranked Miami. The Blue Devils and Hurricanes are set for a 7 p.m. first pitch in Thursday’s series opener followed by another 7 p.m. start in game two of the series Friday. The series finale between the two Coastal Division foes is slated for 1 p.m. at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field with coverage airing on ACC Network Extra.
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