CLEMSON, S.C. – Junior Matt Mervis’ solo home run in the top of the ninth provided Duke with the go-ahead run to propel the team to a 9-8 victory over No. 16 Clemson Sunday afternoon at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. With the win, the Blue Devils complete the three-game sweep over the Tigers, marking the program’s first sweep at Clemson since 1948.
“It was just a lot of resiliency and toughness,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “I thought we were playing well early and we made a couple of baserunning mistakes there in the top of the fifth when we had a chance to maybe stretch the game out a little bit. Credit Clemson, they took advantage of some free offense. They did a good job of taking advantage of it to get back in the ballgame. From that point forward, I absolutely loved the way our team fought and stayed in the ballgame. They didn’t back down from it and they didn’t flinch. That’s as tough of group of guys that I’ve been around in my coaching career right there over those last four innings of the game.”
Duke carried an 8-2 lead into the bottom of the fifth, but Clemson exploded for six runs to even the contest at eight apiece. The Blue Devils crossed one in the ninth on Mervis’ solo shot to seal the 9-8 victory.
Mervis closed out the contest with a 3-for-5 effort with one home run and a team-high three runs scored. Freshman Ethan Murray also contributed a multi-hit outing, finishing with a team-high four hits, including two doubles with one RBI and one run scored. The Blue Devils registered three home runs as a team, with sophomore Joey Loperfido and senior Kennie Taylor also posting roundtrippers in the contest.
Duke used a combination of four arms in the series finale, with freshman Cooper Stinson making the start. Stinson allowed seven earned runs on six hits across his 4.2 innings pitched, while recording eight strikeouts. Sophomore Matt Dockman was the first arm out of the bullpen, working 0.1 inning, yielding one earned run on two hits.
The duo of freshman Jack Carey and senior Hunter Davis covered the final four innings, with Carey tossing 1.1 innings of hitless baseball, collecting two strikeouts in the relief effort. It was Davis (1-2) who earned the decision for the Blue Devils on the mound, working the final 2.2 frames of the contest to notch his first win of the season. The senior right-hander only allowed one hit across his appearance while walking one and striking out two.
For the first time this weekend, the Blue Devils struck first, plating a single tally in the top of the first. With one down in the inning, Taylor registered his fifth home run of the season with a solo shot to deep center to cross the game’s first run and put Duke ahead 1-0 after only a half-inning of play.
For the third consecutive contest, Clemson scored in the first frame, responding with a run of its own to even the score. The Tigers used a one-out single followed by a walk to place runners on first and second. A single to center field in the next at-bat allowed one run to cross to knot the score at 1-1 after one full.
Duke moved ahead in the second with a trio of two-out runs to regain the lead. Murray began the frame with a leadoff double before advancing to third on a groundout. Murray came across to score one out later on a RBI single up the middle from fellow freshman Rudy Maxwell. In the next at-bat, Loperfido sent a two-run home run to left center to extend the Duke lead to 4-1.
The Tigers chipped away with a run in the home half of the second. The leadoff man lined a single up the middle before advancing to second on a wild pitch. A two-out single through the right side plated a run for Clemson to set the score at 4-2 after two innings.
The Blue Devils added one in the third to cushion their lead. Mervis led off the frame with a single to center field. Two outs later, Murray collected his second hit of the day with a single through the left side. After Mervis advanced to third on a wild pitch, a failed pickoff attempt coupled with a throwing miscue by the Clemson third baseman allowed the junior to score to make it a 5-2 ballgame.
Duke put up a three spot in the fifth to widen the margin. With one down in the inning, Mervis reached on muffed throw by the Clemson first baseman. After a single from graduate student Kyle Gallagher placed runners on first and second, junior Chase Cheek ripped a two-run triple into the right center gap to score a couple. Murray brought across the third run of the inning with a single through the left side to push Duke’s lead to 8-2.
Clemson answered back with a six-run inning in the bottom of the fifth to knot the contest at eight. With two down, a solo home run from Grayson Byrd crossed the first run of the inning. After a single and a pair of walks loaded the bases, a hit-by-pitch allowed the second run of the frame to score. In the next at-bat, Justin Hawkins sent a shot to left center for a grand slam to tie the game at 8-8.
The two teams went scoreless across the next the frames until the Blue Devils broke through in the ninth with the long ball from Mervis to move ahead 9-8.
The Tigers did not go quietly, as Duke relied on stellar defense from Gallagher to close out the game. The Blue Devil left fielder robbed the potential tying home run with a nice grab over the left field fence to begin the ninth. After Clemson reached the tying run on base, Davis battled back to record the final two outs of the contest to seal the Duke victory.
The Blue Devils return to the diamond Tuesday evening for a midweek matchup with NC Central at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The two teams are set for a 6 p.m. first pitch at the DBAP, with coverage airing on ACC Network Extra.
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