Slow start dooms Duke baseball in series loss to No. 10 Clemson Tigers

The Blue Devils couldn't quite keep its hot streak rolling against a formidable conference foe
Tyler Albright fields a grounder
Tyler Albright fields a grounder / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

In the series opener against Clemson, the Duke baseball team went down early due to an unearned run in the top of the first inning. Then, the Blue Devils retook the lead with a three-run home run by Logan Bravo, batting on a 2-0 count. Jonathan Santucci got his fourth victory of the season, with Duke winning the game 5-2.

Bravo, in his second appearance at the plate in the third inning, took the first pitch he saw into left field for his second home run of the game. In fact, every run with the exception of Blake Wright’s RBI single to start the game was scored via the long ball.

Macon Winslow’s home run in the fifth sealed the game, allowing Charlie Beilenson to get another nearly three inning save. Santucci struck out 11-of-18 Tigers he faced in his five innings of work.

Andrew Healy took the mound on Saturday, but only lasted one inning. In total, the Blue Devils sent nine pitchers to the mound. The seventh inning saw nine total runs and six pitchers used by both teams.

Going into the bottom of the seventh trailing 8-2, the Blue Devils were able to get five runs home to close the gap to 8-7. The score stayed the same going into the bottom of the ninth. With Harrison Rodgers on second and Logan Bravo on first due to being hit by a pitch, the Blue Devils flied out on back to back at bats to end the game, giving the Tigers the 8-7 victory.

“I loved our response in the bottom of the seventh. We gave them too many free opportunities on the bases and they took advantage of it,” Duke manager Chris Pollard said after Saturday's game.

The series finale followed the same formula as the rest of the series. Clemson gets out ahead, Duke comes back and one big inning sets the stage for the rest of the game. AJ Garcia sent an 0-1 pitch into right field for his sixth home run of the season, cutting Clemson’s lead to 5-4. That home run put the freshman closer to Andrew Fischer’s freshman record 11 dingers last season.

With one out and runners on second and third, Wallace Clark flew out to left. This allowed Devin Obee to come home from third to tie the game. After Beilenson pitched a 1-2-3 top of the ninth, Garcia was set to win the game with a double down the right field line. With Alex Stone advancing to third on an errant throw, an 9-4-2 putout at home sent the game to extra innings. Two homers by the Tigers in the top of the 10th gave them the 8-6 victory.

“We asked a lot of Charlie Beilenson to go back out there in the 10th. He had given us a really good inning in the ninth to give us a chance to win the ballgame, but those runs aren’t on him they are on me,” Pollard said when asked about Beilenson returning for the 10th inning.

The Blue Devils will need to regroup as they will host Towson on March 19th before traveling to Raleigh this weekend to face off against North Carolina State.