Duke walks past UNC to complete sweep
Duke used a Sunday walk in the park, with a few bruises here and there, to claim an historic baseball victory.
North Carolina pitchers issued nine walks and hit three Duke batters in the finale of their three-game ACC series at Jack Coombs Field.
Even though the 18th-ranked Tar Heels had more hits, the Blue Devils claimed a 6-4 win to sweep their rivals for the first time since 1994.
“We didn’t exactly bang it around the ballpark,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said. “But we did a good job of taking advantage of the fact that we did get some free offense. We used the walks. We used the HBPs. We made our opportunities count. We played good enough defense and pitched good enough to make it hold up. It’s a great weekend for our club.”
UNC headed down the road to its sixth consecutive loss from the first inning when starting pitcher Zac Gallen had delivered two runs to the Blue Devils (17-12, 7-5 in ACC). Gallen beaned the first two batters he faced and walked the next two. Duke didn’t get a run out of it because Matt Lumpa was thrown out stealing.
But Gallen hit Aaron Cohen with a pitch with the bases loaded to put Duke up 1-0. That was enough for UNC coach Mike Fox, who replaced Gallen with Henry Sisson.
Gallen threw 19 pitches with only eight finding the strike zone. He walked two and hit three batters in 1/3 of an inning.
“He’s probably the best strike-thrower on our team,” Fox said. “So it’s really surprising to see him start a game like that. You just don’t really know with young players. Sometimes it’s a mixed bag. That was very shocking.”
A Ryan Deitrich sacrifice fly to centerfield gave the Blue Devils a second run in the first inning even though they didn’t record a hit.
UNC (15-12, 5-7) showed fight, though. In the fourth inning, against Duke starting pitcher Michael Matuella, the Tar Heels tied the game with clutch hitting.
Tom Zengel’s two-out double brought in UNC’s first run and Korey Dunbar’s two-out single drove in Zengel to tie the game at 2-2.
Another two-out RBI hit, Michael Russell’s fifth-inning single, gave the Tar Heels a 3-2 lead. Wood Myers started that rally with a two-out double.
But the Tar Heels immediately gave the lead back to Duke for good with their shoddy fielding an inaccurate pitching.
Myers, playing second base, let Chris Marconcini’s ground ball get threw him for an error before Mike Rosenfeld drew a walk to start the Duke fifth inning. Aaron Cohn’s lined a single to right field to drive in Marconcini to tie the game at 3-3.
Rosenfeld scored on Grant McCabe’s safety squeeze bunt that became an infield single and Cohn scampered home for 5-3 Duke lead when Taylore Cherry uncorked a two-out wild pitch.
“They put themselves in position to win all three days including today,” Fox said. “They took advantage of every opportunity. When we got a lead we’d come out with an error and a walk and in this league when you do that you are setting yourself up for a difficult inning.”
Duke pushed its lead to 6-3 in the seventh inning with a single, two walks and a sacrifice fly.
With Blue Devils’ closer Robert Huber unavailable after throwing 3.1 innings in Duke’s 9-8, 12-inning win on Saturday, Pollard’s needed help from Dillon Haviland and Nick Hendrix to close the game.
Haviland pitched a scoreless seventh inning but allowed singles to Russell and Skye Bolt to put the tying run at the plate in the eighth with no outs.
Hendrix entered the game and induced two pop outs before walking Dunbar to load the bases. Facing the go-ahead run, he got pinch-hitter Adam Pate on a groundout to third base.
In the UNC ninth inning, Hendrix hit Landon Lassiter and allowed a one-out single to Myers. With the tying run at the plate again, Hendrix retired Russell on a sacrifice fly that drove in Lassiter and left Duke with a 6-4 lead.
Bolt hit a routine fly ball to centerfield to end the game and give Duke the sweep.