Duke burnished its NCAA-Tournament credentials with a 10-6 victory over Notre Dame Tuesday night and Wednesday morning on the first day of the ACC Tournament. Duke never trailed but had to hold off several Notre Dame rallies to secure its 31st win of the season, against 24 losses.
After waiting out a couple of four-hour games, Duke and Notre Dame started Tuesday’s third and final game at 9:08.
Bryce Jarvis got the starting nod for Duke, Cameron Junker for the Irish.
David LaManna doubled with two outs in the first but the Irish stranded him, with no harm done.
Joey Loperfido led off the bottom of first with a walk. Kennie Taylor followed with infield single and one out later Ethan Murray walked, loading the bases.
Duke coach Chris Pollard says it was no accident that Duke capitalized on Junker’s wildness.
“We talked in our pregame about the fact that Junker in his previous start, against Boston College, had lost his fast-ball command and struggled to throw strikes. So we talked about a small zone and we were going to take and really shrink up the zone. As the game went on we were able to take advantage of some free offense and get some runs.”
Catcher Michael Rothenberg came to the plate and deposited a Junker fastball into the right-field stands and it was 4-0.
“He kind of left it over the middle and I was able to get a good swing off.”
Notre Dame coach Mik Aoki said his team had to adjust to the early blow.
“We gave ourselves an opportunity after that sloppy start. You just talk to the hitters about controlling the things they can, get good bats.”
Notre Dame began clawing back in the second. They got a one-out single by Eric Gilgenbach, followed by a Jared Miller double, a hit batter, an RBI ground-out, leaving Duke up 4-1.
The Irish gifted Duke two runs in the bottom of the second, an infield single, a walk and three wild pitches, making the score 6-1.
Notre Dame added another run in top of third but Jarvis worked out a big jam with a strikeout and fly out, stranding runners at the corners.
Duke knocked out Junker in the bottom of the third, loading the bases with two outs. But Andrew Belcik came in and struck out Loperfido, leaving the score 6-2 after three.
An error by third baseman Erickson Nichols wrapped between two singles and a walk brought home an Irish run and loaded the bases for cleanup hitter Daniel Jung and led to Jarvis hitting the showers.
He was replaced by lefty Matt Dockman, who induced two ground balls, resulting in another run, reducing Duke’s lead to 6-4 going to the bottom of the fourth.
Duke stranded two base runners in the bottom of the fourth but more importantly lost shortstop Murray, who took a fastball to the face and left the game.
“It was clear to me that it affected our team emotionally,” Pollard said. “It put us on our heels a little bit. We did a great job of regrouping.”
Light-hitting Wil Hoyle replaced Murray and quickly made a nice defensive play on a hard grounder. Pollard praised Hoyle for his contribution to the victory, calling it a key.
Notre Dame used a Dockman balk and wild pitch to close the gap to a single run in the top of the fifth.
Duke stopped the bleeding a bit in the bottom of the fifth, scoring a run on a bases-loaded, two-out error by first baseman Jung. But Kyle Gallagher was thrown out trying to advance from second, ending the inning with Duke up 7-5.
Gilgenbach launched a blast over the left-field wall, again cutting the lead to a run. After a fly-out, Chris Pollard went early to closer Thomas Girard, who allowed a double to Prajzner on his first pitch.
But Girard fought back, fanning Jack Zyska and inducing Jack Zyska to ground out.
Pollard said that Girard was snubbed in All-ACC voting last week and praised his effort.
“He has done that numerous times over the course of the season. If you look at his numbers, they stack up against any closer in the league.”
Duke padded its lead in the seventh, a bases-loaded walk by Hoyle--his first college RBI--a sacrifice RBI by Rothenberg and an error.
Notre Dame ended the game allowing 12 walks, hitting Murray, throwing five wild pitches and committing three errors.
And they still weren’t finished. They loaded the bases with one out in the eighth but Girard struck out Gilgenbach and retired Jared Miller on a grounder.
Girard retired the side in order in the ninth, the first 1-2-3 of the evening or morning or whatever.
Duke plays Georgia Tech Friday at 11, with a spot in Saturday’s semifinals at stake. Georgia Tech mauled Duke twice last week but Duke recovered to win the third game.
“I think they’re one of the best offenses in the country,” Pollard says, “so we’ve got out hands full.”
Taylor says Duke has to stay patient if they fall behind early and follow the process. Ben Gross figures to start. Tech lit him up last week but Gross is a grad-student, with an Ivy-League degree, so hopefully he learned some things.
Pollard could not or would not provide an update on Murray but his injury looked pretty severe.
Next man up.
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