GREENSBORO — In 20 career starts, Duke senior pitcher Drew Van Orden had never thrown a complete game, let alone pitched a shutout in one.
In what could be his last collegiate start, the right-hander saved his best for last. He limited Georgia Tech to five hits and no runs over nine innings as the Blue Devils rolled to a 6-0 win over the Yellow Jackets, keeping themselves alive for Sundays ACC championship game.
It couldnt have come at a better time, Van Orden said of his first career complete game shutout.
It was his breaking ball that was his most effective pitch, as Van Orden who struck out eight and walked one used his fastball to get ahead in the count before finishing off hitters with his slider.
The Yellow Jackets who swept Duke during regular-season play put three men on base in the last two innings, but each time Van Orden settled down and recorded the necessary outs. He ended the game with a strikeout of shortstop Connor Justus, followed by a fist pump.
We were chasing balls that are not strikes, Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said. Its hard enough to hit as it is if youre trying to hit strikes, and when you start chasing as many balls out of the zone as we did, its extremely hard to hit.
All around, It was Dukes best game of the season, with Van Ordens pitching and timely hitting.
Pollard hadnt been pleased with the Blue Devils approach at the plate in Wednesdays loss to Clemson Duke didnt hit a ball on the ground until there was one out in the ninth.
After what Pollard called one of the most dialed-in batting practice sessions of the season, the Blue Devils came out driving the ball. Dukes first fly ball came in the fourth inning Ryan Deitrichs home run to right field.
That was the first of three Duke home runs on the day the others came from Jordan Betts and Andy Perez. In the Blue Devils two ACC tournament games, Deitrich is 6-for-9 with two home runs and five RBIs.
A couple weeks ago, I made some adjustments in my swing, Deitrich said. I really shortened my stride and have been able to get the bat head up.
The Blue Devils recorded 14 hits, quite the accomplishment for a club that has been offensively challenged at times. Four came from Deitrich, and Perez and Betts both collected three hits apiece, with Betts running his on-base streak to 15 games. Betts drove in and scored two runs, too.
With the win, the Blue Devils, at 1-1, remained in the hunt to win their pool and advance to Sundays championship game. Duke needs Clemson to lose at least one game.
Two-way ties are broken by the team that won the head-to-head matchup in the tournament. If a three-way tie, with three teams finishing 2-1 were to occur, whichever team has the highest ACC regular-season winning percentage will advance.
Duke would lose that race to Miami, but would advance in a three-way tie with the other two teams, Georgia Tech and Clemson.
Deitrich, a fifth-year senior who played as an undergraduate at Penn, spoke Wednesday about how awesome it was to finally have the chance to participate in the postseason and this came after the 5-3 loss to Clemson.
Now, thanks in large part to Van Orden, a senior who spurned a professional contract from the Boston Red Sox in the offseason and then lost his weekend rotation spot, only to earn it back when others were injured, the Blue Devils have a chance to sneak into the NCAA tournament as well.
Duke would most likely need to win the ACC tournament and grab the leagues automatic bid to do so, but, at a minimum, Saturdays 11 a.m. game against Miami will be plenty meaningful, with the full flavor of the postseason. Just desserts for a team that hadnt advanced to the ACC tournament since 2009.