Van Orden shuts out Jackets; Duke gets ACC Tourney win
Drew Van Orden had Thursday in mind when he decided last summer to put a professional baseball career on hold.
The Duke Blue Devils are glad he made the decision.
The senior righthander scattered five hits while tossing his first career shutout, a 6-0 ACC Tournament win over Georgia Tech at NewBridge Bank Park.
The win was the first for fourth-seeded Duke (32-25) in ACC Tournament play since 2009 and just their second postseason win since 2003.
It’s just the accomplishment Van Orden sought when he told teams not to draft him last June because he intended to play his senior season at Duke. The same was true when the Boston Red Sox offered him a free-agent contract.
He began to falter a bit in the eighth and ninth innings Thursday, when Georgia Tech had three base runners, but he summoned his resolve to finish off the win and the complete-game shutout.
“It was really important,” Van Orden said. “Being a senior and being here for the first time and I was just trying to get the ball over the plate, keep throwing my pitches, keep doing what I’ve been doing.”
What he did was keep No. 9 seed Georgia Tech (34-25) off balance all day while keeping Duke’s chances for an ACC championship alive. Both Duke and Georgia Tech are now 1-1 in Pool B and both have one game to play — the Yellow Jackets against Clemson today and Duke against top-seeded Miami on Saturday (11 a.m., Fox Sports Carolinas, WCMC-FM 99.9).
For Duke to reach Sunday’s ACC championship game, Georgia Tech must beat Clemson and the Blue Devils have to beat Miami.
Georgia Tech opened the tournament winning a play-in game over Wake Forest on Tuesday before upsetting Miami 6-3 on Wednesday. But Yellow Jackets coach Danny Hall said Van Orden was too much to overcome.
“He got very few outs on his fastball, most of his outs were on his breaking ball,” Hall said. “We were chasing balls that were not strikes. I told our team, it’s tough enough as it is if you’re trying to hit strikes. When you start chasing as many balls out of the zone as we did, it’s extremely hard to hit.”
Van Orden struck out eight and issued just one walk. That free pass didn’t come until the eighth inning.
He retired 11 Georgia Tech hitters in a row at one point. After giving up a two-out single in the third inning, Van Orden didn’t allow another hit until the eighth inning.
“We had a really good plan having seen them earlier in the year,” Van Orden said. “(Pitching) Coach (Andrew) See put together really good pitches, and we were able to get ahead with the fastball and slider and just work from there.”
Duke turned in a solid performance at the plate to back Van Orden’s efforts. The Blue Devils pounded 14 hits off four Georgia Tech pitchers with three balls clearing the fence for home runs.
“I told the kids after the ballgame I thought they picked a great time to play the most complete ballgame of the year,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said.
Ryan Deitrich had four hits, including a solo home run, for Duke. He has six hits in nine at bats with two home runs and five RBIs in the ACC Tournament.
“We worked on our approach during batting practice,” Deitrich said, “and a couple of weeks ago (we) made adjustments to the swing. Shortening my stride and getting the bat up really helped.”
Jordan Betts and Andy Perez each had three hits, including a home run apiece, for the Blue Devils.
Deitrich put Duke up for good in the fourth inning with a solo home run the opposite way to right-centerfield. Perez doubled Duke’s lead to 2-0 when he homered to left in the fifth inning.
Betts doubled Duke’s lead again in the seventh inning with a two-run shot to left field that put Duke ahead 4-0.
Mark Lumpa and Deitrich added RBI hits in the eighth and ninth innings to make the lead comfortable for Van Orden.
Not that he needed all that help.
“I struggled the last two weeks a little bit so it was good to try and come back and give the team everything I had and give them a chance to win,” Van Orden said. “It was great out there, the defense played great behind me and the Coach called great pitches so everything was working.”
NOTES — Duke shortstop Kenny Koplove returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday’s loss to Clemson while recovering from a concussion. Koplove was 0-for-4 at the plate but assisted on seven outs defensively ... Pollard said he will start Trent Swart on Saturday against Miami and Andrew Istler would be the starter if Duke reaches the ACC title game.