It was one of the choppiest atmospheres Chris Pollard had ever seen, but his team pulled out the win.
Duke advanced to the NCAA Morgantown Regional final with a 4-0 win over host and 15th-overall national seed West Virginia Saturday night.
“It was a really electric environment,” Blue Devil head coach Pollard said. “Credit to the fans in Morgantown and the job West Virginia’s done to create so much excitement around their program that you had that type of atmosphere in the stands tonight, but I thought the difference in the ball game was the composure and poise our kids showed.”
The Blue Devils’ (33-25) bats were hot against top MLB prospect Alek Manoah from the get-go as Matt Mervis led off with a double to right field. Michael Rothenberg brought him home on a triple to center field.
Mountaineer outfielder Brandon White couldn’t quite get his placement on the ball, crashing into the outfield wall head-first as Rothenburg rounded the bases. White was down at the wall for about 10 minutes, but remained in the game.
Rothenburg came home on a wild pitch and Duke ended the first inning with a 2-0 lead.
After both teams faced the minimum in the second, the Blue Devils tacked on some more runs. West Virginia (38-21) ace Manoah walked Joey Loperfido, Mervis and Rothenberg to load the bases.
Erikson Nichols hit a slow grounder toward the mound and Loperfido just beat the throw home to WVU catcher Ivan Gonzalez to give Duke a 3-0 lead. The play was originally called out, but was reversed. In the ensuing pandemonium in Monongalia County Ballpark, Mountaineer head coach Randy Mazey was ejected.
Duke added another run on Chris Crabtree’s single to take a 4-0 lead.
Bryce Jarvis picked up his fifth win for Duke, allowing only six hits and striking out 11 and walking only one in eight innings pitched. Thomas Girard pitched relief in the ninth inning and struck out two of the Mountaineers’ final batters in the ninth to seal the win.
“(Our composure and poise) starts and ends with Bryce Jarvis and the job he did on the mound,” Pollard said. “It was one of the best jobs, if not the best job, I’ve ever seen of just managing the moment.”
The Blue Devils will face the winner of an elimination game between West Virginia and Texas A&M on Sunday at 6 p.m. Should Duke lose Sunday’s game, it will play Monday for a spot in the NCAA Super Regionals.