CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – A six-run fourth inning from Virginia proved to be the difference Saturday afternoon, as the Blue Devils fell to the Cavaliers, 11-3, in the series opener at Davenport Field. With the loss, Duke move to 9-5 on the season.
“There were a lot of things in the flow of the game that we didn’t do well,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “Nine of their runs scored with two outs, so that tells you that you’re three pitches away from being in potentially a 3-2 ballgame. There were a couple of opportunities that we had with two outs and two strikes that we didn’t execute. The scoreboard looks worse than the reality, but we have to play a lot better.”
Virginia got out to an early lead in Saturday’s series opener, adding single tallies in the first and third innings. Duke responded with a run of its own in the fourth, but the Cavaliers used a six-run fourth inning to widen the advantage and put the contest out of reach. The Blue Devils chipped away, scoring one run in both the fifth and sixth frames, sandwiching a UVA run in the fifth, but the Cavaliers added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth to close out the contest and secure the game one victory.
Junior left-hander Graeme Stinson (2-1) suffered the loss for Duke, allowing six earned runs on four hits and three walks while recording five strikeouts across his 3.2 innings of work. The foursome of sophomore Matt Dockman, junior Eli Herrick, sophomore Josh Nifong and freshman Aaron Beasley combined to throw the final 4.1 frames.
Virginia struck first in the contest, plating one run in the first. The Cavaliers used a leadoff walk followed by a RBI double to left center to cross the game’s first run. After a wild pitch advanced the runner 90 feet to third base, but Stinson battled back to record three consecutive outs, including one strikeout, to end the inning and keep the score at 1-0 after one inning of play.
The Cavaliers added one more in the third, with the scoring sequence starting with a one-out walk. A ground-rule double in the next at-bat placed runners on second and third before a wild pitched allowed a run to cross to set the tally at 2-0 in favor of Virginia.
The Blue Devils got on the board in the very next frame, scoring one to make it a 2-1 ballgame. With one down, senior Kennie Taylor reached on an error before sophomore Michael Rothenberg drew a walk. After freshman Rudy Maxwell legged out an infield single to load the bases, a hit-by-pitch to sophomore Chris Crabtree brought across Duke’s first run of the day to make it a one-run contest.
Virginia responded in the home half of the fourth, exploding for six runs to gain a sizeable advantage. With one down inning the inning, UVA used a single and a hit-by-pitch to place runners on first and second. After a second hit-by-pitch of the inning loaded the bases, a RBI single scored a pair of runs for the Cavaliers forcing the Blue Devils to make a call to the bullpen. A single followed by a double scored three more runs for Virginia, before a wild pitch allowed the inning’s sixth and final run to cross, making it an 8-1 game.
Duke began to chip away at the lead, adding a single tally in the fifth to trim the deficit. After graduate student Kyle Gallagher led off the frame with a walk, sophomore Tyler Wardwell lined a single through right side to place runners on the corners. One out later, Taylor reached on a hit-by-pitch to load the bases before Rothenberg drew his second walk of the afternoon to plate a run and set the score at 8-2.
After UVA scored one in the home half of the fifth, the Blue Devils added another run the sixth to continue chipping away. The inning began with a leadoff double from junior Erikson Nichols, which extended his reached base streak to a season-long tying 14 games. After a passed ball allowed Nichols to advance to third, Crabtree drew his second walk of the afternoon to place runners on the corners. A groundout in the next at-bat allowed one run to cross, making it a 9-3 contest.
Virginia added a pair of runs in the eighth on three hits to pad the lead and set the score at 11-3, the eventual final.
The Blue Devils and Cavaliers return to the diamond tomorrow afternoon for a doubleheader at Davenport Field to conclude the three-game series. The two teams are set for a noon start, with the second game of the twinbill slated to begin 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first contest.
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