Duke falls to Miami in late innings again
Blue Devils will search for reset button ahead of next week’s NCAA tournament
DURHAM – Duke came into its Friday game against Miami searching for momentum ahead of next week’s NCAA tournament.
The Blue Devils left it with a second one-run loss in as many games at the ACC Baseball Championship.
Duke lost two-run leads in the sixth and eighth innings of a 7-6 loss to Miami at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
“We’re playing in a lot of close ballgames and coming up on the wrong side of them,” said Duke coach Chris Pollard, whose team lost 8-7 in 11 innings on Tuesday night. “I’m proud of the way we’re competing, we’re a pitch away here or a play away there and we’ve gotta fight our way to the other side of it.”
Miami, as the highest seed in Pool D, punched its ticket to the semifinal round with Thursday night’s 4-2 win over N.C. State. The top four seeds in the ACC Baseball Championship only need to go 1-1 to advance, unless one of the lower-seeded teams go 2-0.
While the outcome of this game wasn’t going to determine who advanced, it was far from meaningless.
Miami is headed toward a Saturday semifinal against top-seeded Wake Forest. It’d behoove of the Hurricanes to be clicking at an optimal level heading into that matchup.
For the Blue Devils (35-21), an NCAA tournament berth has been locked up. A win against Miami would’ve bolstered Duke’s resume and sent the Blue Devils into next week with some sorely needed momentum.
Instead, Duke has lost eight of its last 12 games heading into the NCAA tournament.
“There are some things that got a little bit exposed in this game that we’ve gotta clean up, make sure they don’t bite us in the butt again,” Pollard said. “Kind of getting the positive energy going again.
“When you find yourself on the wrong side of games like this, it can at times become perpetuating. I think getting away from this week and getting into a fresh week (will help).”
There was also the revenge factor here. Duke went to Miami last week with a chance to win the ACC’s Coastal Division and beat the Hurricanes in the first game, but blew a five-run lead and lost in extra innings in the rubber game. Miami won the series finale 10-1.
Instead, it was James Tallon — who blew the save at Miami — giving up two home runs in three batters that tied the game in the eighth. Tallon had given up two homers in 31 2/3 innings entering this game.
The Hurricanes (39-18) notched the game-winning run on Renzo Gonzalez’s two-out single later in the eighth.
“I think we’ve handled everything really well so far,” said first baseman Luke Storm, whose two-run homer in the eighth gave Duke a lead. “One of the things Coach preaches is the love we have for each other. … With that love that we’ve built for each other, I don’t think there’s a worry when they step on the field.”
Duke started Alex Gow, its graduate transfer from Kenyon College who’s been the only constant in the Blue Devils’ starting rotation. The 6-3, 230-pounder is in line to start Duke’s first game in next weekend’s NCAA tournament.
Gow pitched two innings and gave up two runs, both in the first inning.
Storm tied the game at 2-2 with a leadoff homer in the fifth, and Alex Stone’s leadoff homer in the sixth put Duke in the lead and extended his hitting streak to 30 games. The Blue Devils added a run in the sixth on Damon Lux’s two-out single.
That lead, like the 1-0 lead in the first inning, didn’t last long. Miami’s Yohandy Morales hit a two-run single in the bottom half of the inning to knot the score at 4-4.
Duke will learn its destination in next week’s NCAA tournament on Monday afternoon.