DURHAM, N.C. – An early offensive effort powered the Duke baseball team to a 10-6 victory over Notre Dame Tuesday night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. With the win, the Blue Devils move to 31-24 on the season, and improve to 1-0 in the ACC Baseball Championship as part of pool play.
The Blue Devils got the win despite being out-hit by the Fighting Irish, 12 to eight. The Notre Dame pitching staff combined for a total of 12 walks allowed, while recording five wild pitches thrown in the ballgame. The two teams combined to leave a total of 27 runners on base.
“So, I mean, plain and simple, I'm incredibly proud of our team,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “We had a tough fourth and fifth inning there. Credit Notre Dame. We got up; they didn't go away. They kept chipping their way back in the baseball game. We knew they were very offensive and they were capable of scoring runs in bunches.”
The Blue Devils jumped out to an early 4-0 lead with a four-run inning in the very first frame. Sophomore Joey Loperfido led off the inning with a walk followed by an infield single from senior Kennie Taylor. One out later, freshman Ethan Murray drew a walk to load the bases for sophomore Michael Rothenberg, who blasted a grand slam to right center to clear the bases and put Duke in the scoring column. The home run marked a team-high 10th homer of the season for Rothenberg, and the 23rd grand slam in ACC Tournament history.
Notre Dame began to chip away at the deficit with one run in the second. With one down, a single followed by a ground-rule double placed runners on second and third. A groundout in the next at-bat brought across the first run of the night for the Fighting Irish to make it a 4-1 contest.
Duke answered back with two runs in the home half of the second. With one out, graduate student Kyle Gallagher sent a single to center before Loperfido reached on a walk to place runners on first and second. After a wild pitch resulted both runners to advancing 90 feet, a second wild pitch in the at-bat that skirted away from the catcher allowed both runs to cross to push Duke’s lead to 6-1 after two innings of action.
The Fighting Irish continued to claw away, scoring four runs across the third, fourth and fifth innings to trim the deficit. The third inning began with a leadoff walk followed by back-to-back singles to load the bases. A sacrifice fly in the next at-bat plated a run for Notre Dame to trim the Blue Devils’ advantage to 6-2.
The Notre Dame fourth began with a leadoff single before a fielding error placed runners on the corners for the Fighting Irish. One batter later, a single to right field scored one run. After a walk in the next at-bat, a RBI groundout plated the second run of the inning to make it a 6-4 ballgame.
The Fighting Irish began the fifth with a single through the left side before the runner advanced to second on a balk, and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. One batter later, a passed ball brought a run across for Notre Dame to cut Duke’s lead to 6-5.
The Blue Devils responded with a run of their own in the home half of the fifth to make it a two-run contest. With one down, freshman RJ Schreck sent a single to left center before Gallagher and Loperfido both drew walks to load the bases. One out later, junior Matt Mervis reached on a fielding error, which allowed one run to score to push the advantage to 7-5.
The two teams traded runs once again in the seventh, with Notre Dame adding one in the top half to make it a one-run game again. Eric Gilgenbach led off the frame with a solo shot to left field to make it a 7-6 contest heading into the stretch.
Duke seized momentum with a three-run inning in the home half to cushion its lead. Gallagher drew the leadoff walk to begin the frame before Loperfido and Taylor reached on back-to-back singles to load the bases. One out later, sophomore Wil Hoyle collected the first RBI of his career, drawing a bases-loaded walk to bring a run across.
After Notre Dame made a call to its bullpen, Rothenberg greeted the new arm with a deep fly ball to center field to collect his career-high fifth RBI of the night. The Blue Devils brought across their third run of the inning as junior Erikson Nichols reached on a fielding error, which allowed one run to score to set the score at 10-6, the eventual final.
On the mound, sophomore Matt Dockman (6-1) picked up his team-high tying sixth win of the season in the relief effort. The second-year southpaw worked 3.0 innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits while walking one and striking out two. Fellow sophomore Thomas Girard picked up his team-high ninth save of the season, covering the final 2.2 frames, holding the Fighting Irish scoreless while scattering two hits and collecting a career-high tying six strikeouts.
Duke will have the next two days off, before continuing pool play Friday against second-seeded Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils and Yellow Jackets are set for an 11 a.m. first pitch at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
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