Duke baseball season ends with a 6-5, 12 inning loss to Miami

lkeeley@newsobserver.comMay 24, 2014 

— It was a difficult end to one of the most successful Duke baseball seasons of the past 20 years.

After rallying in the ninth inning, Duke’s season ended in the 12th against Miami, with the tying run 90 feet away. A called strike three on the Blue Devils’ Matt Berezo gave the Hurricanes the 6-5, extra-innings victory in the ACC tournament. Duke finished 1-2 in pool play, as Georgia Tech advances to face Maryland in Sunday’s championship game.

Duke (33-24) made significant strides in coach Chris Pollard’s second season, highlighted by topping the 30-win plateau and qualifying for the ACC tournament for the first time since 2009.

And even though the Blue Devils won 16 league games and swept four ACC series (equaling the total program’s number of sweeps from 1995 to 2012), it won’t be enough to extend their season into the NCAA tournament for the first time in 53 years.

Selection for the college baseball national tournament correlates closely with a team’s RPI ranking – generally at-large seeds have to be in the top 50, with the top 55 as an absolute minimum.

Duke’s current RPI is 82.

“I love ’em and I’m proud of them, and they got nothing to hang their heads about,” Pollard said of his team.

The Blue Devils would have advanced to Sunday’s ACC championship game with a win against the Hurricanes – something they came oh-so-close to achieving.

Down 4-2 in the ninth, Berezo opened the inning with a single to left. Two batters later, freshman pinch-hitter Cris Perez stepped in to face his old high school teammate – Miami closer Bryan Garcia.

“I caught him pretty much every Tuesday last year in high school,” Perez said of their time at Miami Christopher Columbus High.

Perez took his old battery mate deep to left field, over the fence for a two-run home run, tying the game at 4. It was Perez’s first career home run, as well as the first home run second-team All-ACC closer Garcia had given up this year.

Duke senior closer Robert Huber, who entered with one out in the eighth, pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings, yielding to Andrew Istler in the 12th. The Hurricanes’ No. 9 hitter, freshman Jacob Heyward (the younger brother of Atlanta Braves all-star Jason), led off the inning with a double. A sacrifice bunt advanced him to third, and he came home on an ensuing wild pitch. ACC freshman of the year Zack Collins added an insurance run with two outs, as he drove a pitch over the right field fence.

The Hurricanes needed that extra run in the bottom of the 12th. Senior Jordan Betts drew a one-out walk, and redshirt junior Chris Marconcini advanced him to second with a single to left. Miami shortstop Brandon Lopez couldn’t handle Mike Rosenfeld’s chopper back to the middle, and Betts came around to score and Marconcini stopped on third. And that’s where he stood as the game ended.

Miami coach Jim Morris has been at the head of an ACC program since 1982, when he arrived at Georgia Tech. He paid the Blue Devils quite the compliment after the game.

“It’s the best Duke club that I can remember, and I can remember playing Duke for a long time between Miami and Georgia Tech,” Morris said. “They’re well coached. I’m very impressed with the direction that program is headed, and they’ve got a great product to sell and a great AD in Kevin White that likes baseball.”

The Blue Devils will lose seven significant contributors from this roster – Betts (third base), Huber (closer), Berezo and David Perkins (designated hitter platoon) Drew Van Orden (Friday starter), Ryan Deitrich (left field) and Mark Lumpa (center field).

“When you’ve struggled for a long time sometimes the hard part is getting over the hump,” Pollard said. “These guys were tough enough to fight to get over the hump and they battled through adversity early, they had injuries, kept fighting and, again, I couldn’t be more proud of our seniors.”

Twitter: @laurakeeley

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