Duke has spent this baseball season separating itself from the ACC’s bottom-feeding teams.
This weekend, the Blue Devils are getting an eyeful of the league’s elite and the results haven’t been pretty.
No. 8-ranked Miami, the ACC Coastal Division leader, broke open a tight game against Duke’s bullpen and routed the Blue Devils 9-1 Saturday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Coupled with Friday night’s 6-1 Miami win, the Hurricanes (37-14, 21-5 in ACC) are in position to sweep the three-game series in today’s noon finale.
Assured of playing in the ACC Tournament for the first time since 2009, the Blue Devils (30-20, 15-11) need solid play over the last two regular-season series and in the ACC Tournament to gain their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1961.
Miami has made that difficult so far.
“They’ve done a good job the last two days getting the big hit,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said. “They did it again today.”
The lopsided final score belied how the Blue Devils hung tough with the powerful Hurricanes for the game’s first six innings.
Duke starting pitcher Trent Swart, despite allowing at least one baserunner in all but one of the innings he pitched, held Miami to one run over the first six innings.
With the score tied at 1-1, the Blue Devils had an excellent chance to take the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Jordan Betts walked, Chris Marconcini singled and Aaron Cohn bunted them over to give Duke runners at second and third with one out.
David Perkins laced a hot shot up the middle, but Miami pitcher Andrew Suarez snared the ground ball and caught Betts in a rundown between third and home. Betts was tagged out and Duke’s rally was reduced to runners at first and second with two outs.
Mike Rosenfeld’s fly ball to right field ended the inning with the score still tied at 1.
“Right there was a situation where we have a chance to take the lead,” Pollard said. “They did a good job of making pitches in that moment. We had our chances early and we let it slip away from us.”
Swart retired the first Miami batter in the seventh inning but allowed consecutive singles to Johnny Ruiz and Brad Fieger to put runners at first and third. At that point, Pollard removed Swart, who had thrown 99 pitches.
Relief pitcher Andrew Istler got a ground ball from Jacob Heyward but Duke was unable to turn the double play and Ruiz scored for a 2-1 Miami lead. When Heyward took off for second on an Istler wild pitch, Rosenfeld grabbed the ball and threw to second. But no one covered the base and the throw went into centerfield allowing Heyward to take third.
Dale Carey’s two-out single drove in Heyward and Miami led 3-1.
Miami broke the game open with six runs in the eighth against three Duke pitchers. The score was 4-1 with two outs when Heyward drew a bases-loaded walk from Sarkis Ohanian. Carey followed with a grand slam home run deep over the left-field wall.
“Carey did a good job two separate times with two outs,” Pollard said. “That’s what I just reminded the guys. That end score looks worse than it really was. The reality is we’re two pitches away from going into the ninth inning (down) 3-1.”
In what’s been a renaissance season for Duke baseball, the Blue Devils have nonetheless been swept by Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech in ACC play. Pollard and the players vowed following Saturday’s game to do all they could to avoid seeing Miami win three in a row.
“In the past we’ve let the first two games get to us,” Swart said. “Tomorrow we have to come out like nothing happened. We have to be loose but have some energy and a sense of purpose and win a ballgame.”