ATLANTA – Sophomore Jack Labosky hit two home runs and registered a career-high eight RBI as Duke outlasted No. 21 Georgia Tech, 14-13, in 10 innings Saturday afternoon at Russ Chandler Stadium. The two teams combined for 27 runs, 33 hits and five home runs, utilizing a total of 12 pitchers in the back-and-forth affair.
Labosky ended the day 4-for-5 with two homers, a double, eight RBI and three runs scored. He belted three-run bombs in both the first and sixth frames and added a two-run seventh-inning double. Only two ACC players have totaled more RBI in a game since 2013: Miami’s David Thompson (9 vs. Georgia Tech, May 15, 2015) and Notre Dame’s Jake Shepski (9 vs. Virginia Tech, March 24, 2016).
“What an incredible day for Jack,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “He is really finding his power and that was on display today. The ball he hit over the batter’s eye, that was a really impressive swing. The biggest hit of the day was his double to tie it back after we’d let them go ahead again. Lot of lead changes in this game.”
Duke’s 13 runs and 15 hits both marked season highs. Eight of the Blue Devils’ starting nine had at least one hit and six registered multiple hits. Sophomore Justin Bellinger went 2-for-5 and homered for the second straight game, while classmate Peter Zyla matched his career high with three base knocks.
Sophomore Mitch Stallings (1-1) recorded the final five outs to earn his first win of the season. Georgia Tech’s Tanner Shelton (0-1) was saddled with the loss after allowing one run and one walk in a third of an inning.
In contrast to the rest of the game, Duke (13-14, 3-8 ACC) plated the winning run in the top of the 10th without a hit. Freshman Griffin Conine walked to begin the inning, advanced to second on Zack Kone’s sacrifice bunt and took third on an Evan Dougherty groundout. A wild pitch allowed Conine to score Duke’s 14th run of the evening.
“I’m really proud of our club,” Pollard said. “When it got to be 10-6 in the fourth, I felt there was a little bit of the ‘Uh oh, here we go again.’” But we were tough enough to overcome that and continue to battle. That’s a tremendous learning opportunity for our guys. If you just stay in it, you give yourselves a chance. I’m proud of that.”
Georgia Tech starter Zac Ryan entered the game with a 1.46 ERA, but Duke jumped on the Yellow Jacket right-hander to begin the first. Jimmy Herron was hit by a pitch and Chris Proctor snuck a single through the right side to ignite what turned into a five-run rally. Labosky launched a mammoth three-run home run over the batter’s eye in straightaway center to put Duke on the board. Bellinger followed with his second homer in as many games and Herron added an RBI single to give the Blue Devils a 5-0 margin.
Georgia Tech sent 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the second, effectively erasing the 5-0 deficit. The Yellow Jackets scored six runs – just two earned after a Duke fielding error extended the inning – on six hits. Ryan Peurifoy, Connor Justus and Tristin English each came up with RBI hits to help Georgia Tech claim a 6-5 lead.
Herron’s two-out RBI double in the third tied the game, 6-6, and chased Ryan from the contest. Ryan allowed a season-high six runs on nine hits over 2.2 innings in the no decision.
Kel Johnson homered for the fourth straight game to once again break the tie. Johnson’s seventh home run of the season came with two outs in the fourth and established a 7-6 Georgia Tech advantage. Three more Yellow Jacket base knocks and a Duke miscue resulted in a four-run fourth and 10-6 overall score.
The back-and-forth action continued with Labosky’s second home run. Labosky drove a 2-1 offering to right center, scoring Proctor and Cris Perez who both singled. Peter Zyla added a two-out RBI base hit, resulting in a 10-all stalemate.
Designated hitter Grant Stallings lifted a two-run shot to conclude the sixth, putting the Yellow Jackets ahead once again, 12-10. Georgia Tech scored each of its first 12 runs with two outs.
Labosky and the Blue Devils again had the answer. After Herron and Proctor drew seventh-inning walks, Labosky doubled off the center field wall to draw the score even. Michael Smiciklas added a two-out RBI single and Duke took a 13-12 lead in the bottom of the ninth.
Brandon Gold led off with a ninth-inning pinch hit single and scored the game-tying run on a Connor Justus RBI base hit. Despite relinquishing the lead, Duke countered with the game-winning run to start the 10th.
Duke and Georgia Tech reunite for the series finale Sunday, April 3 at 1 p.m., from Russ Chandler Stadium.