LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Duke defeated No. 10 Virginia, 4-3, in ACC Championship action Thursday at Louisville Slugger Field to earn a spot in the tournament semifinals Saturday.
Ninth-seeded Duke (30-27) scored three in the sixth to topple fourth-seeded Virginia (44-12) and clinch the Pool D slot. The Blue Devils face the Pool A winner – top-seeded Louisville or eighth-seeded Florida State – Saturday at 1 p.m.
“I'm really proud of our club,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “For the second ballgame in this tournament, we pitched very well. We commanded the strike zone, [we] played really good defense behind our pitchers and we did a good job of staying in the moment and making plays late in the ballgame. We beat a really good team.”
In addition to securing 30 wins for the fourth straight season, Duke is 2-0 at this year's league championship to mark the Blue Devils' first season with multiple ACC Tournament wins since 2003.
Right-hander Ryan Day (4-3) earned the win with 6.2 solid innings before Duke received 1.1 scoreless frames from reliever Nick Hendrix. Junior Jack Labosky worked around a leadoff ninth-inning walk to record three straight outs for his seventh save of the season.
Junior Max Miller tied the game with an RBI single in the ninth and Chris Proctor knocked in two a batter later to give Duke the lead. Both Miller and Proctor finished with two hits. Labosky reached base in all four plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with two walks. Sophomore Kennie Taylor was 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI.
Derek Casey (4-2) started on the mound for Virginia and took the loss, yielding six hits and all four Duke runs (two earned) in 5.1 innings. Caleb Knight had two of the Cavaliers' six hits, and Robbie Coman, Cameron Simmons and Andy Weber drove in Virginia's three runs.
Duke rallied with two outs to scratch across a first-inning run. Sophomore Griffin Conine coaxed a walk and junior Jack Labosky doubled to left before sophomore Kennie Taylor beat out an RBI infield single for the game's first tally.
Day retired nine of the first 11 batters he faced before Adam Haseley singled with one out in the fourth. Robbie Coman's RBI double to left center tied the game 1-1 before Cameron Simmons' RBI grounder to second plated Pavin Smith for the go-ahead run.
Duke went without a hit from the third until a three-run sixth. Labosky ended a streak of eight straight batters retired for UVA starter Derek Casey with a one-out walk. Taylor singled and Smiciklas reached on an error to load the bases. Max Miller singled through the right side to tie the game, 2-2. Sophomore Chris Proctor drove a 3-2 pitch the opposite way for a two-run base hit.
“Runners were in motion, so I knew if I got a hit we were definitely going to get two,” Proctor said. “I didn't try to do too much. I just kind of put my best swing on it.”
Caleb Knight's double to left lead off the seventh. After moving to third on a ground ball, the UVA catcher crossed home on Any Weber's grounder to second to trim the margin, 4-3.
Nick Hendrix extended his streak to 16.2 innings scoreless innings in 11 straight shutout innings to get Duke off the field. After throwing 3.1 shutout innings Tuesday versus Clemson, Hendrix struck out three of the five batters he faced to preserve the lead.
Labosky took over in the ninth and induced two ground balls after a sacrifice bunt to seal Duke's spot in the semifinals.
“I'm proud because the team you've seen out on the field on Tuesday and Thursday was not the team that played the first 15 or 20 games of the season,” Pollard added. “For our guys to stay together, to stay committed to the program, to stay committed to each other, I think that speaks a lot about the culture that's in our locker room and the leadership that's in our locker room.”