Duke, Van Orden nip UNC to snap 9-game series losing skid
His dugout devoid of anyone who had beaten rival North Carolina, Duke’s Drew Van Orden had waited as long as anyone.
The senior right-hander’s pinpoint control on his assortment of pitches delivered the win all the Blue Devils wanted on Friday.
Van Orden struck out 12 UNC batters over his eight innings of work as Duke beat the Tar Heels 3-2 at Jack Coombs Field for its first baseball win over UNC since 2010.
“It’s huge,” Van Orden said. “I’ve always dreamed since I’ve been here to beat Carolina. You think about it at the beginning of the year. So it’s really good for it to actually happen. We’d like to get a couple more this weekend.”
The Tar Heels, ranked No. 18 in the nation, saw their nine-game winning streak over Duke end. UNC had swept the annual three-game series in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The Tar Heels (15-10, 5-5 in ACC) jumped on top with a single run in the second inning before Van Orden (2-2) settled in and shut them down. After allowing hits to four of UNC’s first 10 batters, Van Orden retired 16 of the last 17 batters he faced.
His control was key as he didn’t walk a batter.
“I think I was really successful today at getting ahead in the count with 0-1 pitches,” Van Orden said. “A lot of cutters early worked out well.”
Van Orden struck out the side in the fifth and eighth innings, striking out four consecutive batters during one stretch and displaying his stamina by dominating UNC as his pitch count neared 100.
“The thing that was so impressive was how he got stronger as the game went on,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said. “He just made a lot of great pitches.”
Duke’s defense helped before Van Orden found his groove. With a runner on first and no outs in the second inning, Duke centerfielder Grant McCabe robbed Skye Bolt of an extra-base hit and an RBI with a diving catch in the right-centerfield gap. UNC scored a run in the inning anyway on Tyler Ramierez’s two-out RBI double, but McCabe’s play helped Van Orden limit the damage.
In the top of the third inning, Landon Lassiter reached on a lead-off single. But Duke shortstop Kenny Koplove snared a Parks Jordan line drive and doubled Lassiter off first base to short-circuit the rally.
UNC managed just one hit off Van Orden from there.
“They were on their toes in the batter’s box in the first three innings,” Pollard said of the Tar Heels. “They hit a lot of balls hard and we made good plays behind him. Then he used that and really settled in and got better and better as it went.”
The Blue Devils (15-12, 5-5 in ACC) tied the score in the bottom of the third when Mark Lumpa and Matt Berezo each singled with one out. The runners advanced to second and third on a Chris Marconcini flyout and Lumpa scored the tying run on a two-out wild pitch.
More clutch hitting from Berezo, who extended his hitting streak to seven games, plus some sloppy UNC defense put Duke ahead.
In the fifth inning, Koplove singled off UNC starter Tyler Thornton (5-1) to start the inning. Cris Perez hit a groundball to third, but Lassiter’s throw went over the head of Jordan and first base. The error put Duke runners at first and third.
Berezo drove in Koplove with a sacrifice fly for a 2-1 Duke lead. Berezo added a second sacrifice fly in the seventh inning to drive in Perez, who doubled to start the inning, and give Duke a 3-1 lead.
With Van Orden at 98 pitches, Pollard called on Blue Devils closer Robert Huber in the ninth. With a steady rain falling, Huber walked the first two batters he faced and ran the count full against Wood Myers.
But Perez, at second base, made a diving play to get a force out on Myers’ slow chopper up the middle.
The Blue Devils just missed turning a game-ending double play, allowing a run to score and cut their lead to 3-2. But Huber struck out Tom Zengel looking to end the game.
Duke and UNC are scheduled to play the second game of their series today at 1 p.m., weather permitting.