DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke baseball team dropped a heartbreaker to second-seeded Georgia Tech, 5-4, as a late run in the bottom of the ninth walked it off for the Yellow Jackets Friday afternoon at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. With the loss, the Blue Devils move to 31-25 on the season, while Georgia Tech advances to the semifinals of the conference tournament.
It was an early offensive affair at the DBAP as the two teams traded runs across the first three innings of play. Duke hopped up to an early 3-0 lead in the first before Georgia Tech responded with a two-run inning in the bottom of the first. The Blue Devils plated one run in the third, which was answered by a two-run frame from the Yellow Jackets in the bottom half to even things at four. Pitching went on to dominate the remainder of the ballgame as the two teams went scoreless until Georgia Tech walked it off in the ninth to secure the win.
Sophomore Thomas Girard (1-5) suffered the tough-luck loss for the Blue Devils. The second-year right-hander worked 2.0 innings, allowing one earned run on two hits and two walks while striking out one. Girard was the second arm out of the bullpen, following starter Ben Gross and sophomore Matt Dockman. Gross tossed the first 5.0 frames, surrendering four earned runs on six hits and two walks while collecting a pair of strikeouts. Dockman followed by going the next 1.1 innings, scattering only two hits in the scoreless outing while striking out one batter before turning it over to Girard.
The Blue Devils jumped out to another fast start in their second game of the tournament with a three-run inning in the first. With one down in the inning, senior Kennie Taylor reached on an infield single before junior Matt Mervis drew a walk to place runners on first and second. Cleanup man Michael Rothenberg collected his sixth RBI of the tournament in the next at-bat with the sophomore delivering a single to left field to plate Taylor and give Duke its first run of the day. After graduate student Kyle Gallagher reached on a hit-by-pitch to load the bases, sophomore Chris Crabtree sent a two-run single through the right side to score a pair and give the Blue Devils a 3-0 lead after a half-inning.
Georgia Tech answered back in the home half, putting up a two-spot in the scoring column to make it a one-run contest. The inning began with a single from the leadoff man on the second pitch of the inning. Two outs later, Tristin English sent a ball over the left field wall to cut the Duke lead to 3-2 after one full.
The two teams traded runs once again in the third, as the Blue Devils added one run in the top half to extend their lead. Taylor began the frame with a leadoff walk before Mervis followed with a single to right field to place runners on first and third. In the next at-bat, Rothenberg grounded into a double play, but Taylor came across to score on the sequence to push Duke’s lead to 4-2.
In the home half, the Yellow Jackets struck for another two-run inning to even things at four apiece. The scoring sequence began with a one-out single to left field. One out later, Kyle McCann sent a ball over the right field wall to tie the contest at 4-4 after three innings of action.
The two teams went scoreless across the next five frames until Georgia Tech broke through with the winning run in the ninth to walk it off. The frame began with a leadoff walk before a one-out intentional walk placed runners on first and second. In the next at-bat, English sent ball that bounced off the left field wall to score the winning run to clinch the win.
Offensively, the Blue Devils were led by freshman RJ Schreck, who collected a career-high two hits in the effort. Crabtree notched a team-high two RBI in the contest, while Taylor added a team-high in runs scored with two as part of his 1-for-3 effort.
Friday’s matchup marks the conclusion of the ACC Baseball Championship for the Blue Devils as Georgia Tech advances to the tournament semifinals on Saturday to represent Pool B. Duke now awaits next week’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show Monday at noon, which will determine where the Blue Devils will head for NCAA Regionals.
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