A meaningless game in terms of determining the ACC champion became plenty meaningful for Duke on Thursday.
The fourth-seeded Blue Devils scored four runs in the 13th inning to outlast ninth-seeded Wake Forest, 6-2, in 13 innings in an ACC tournament pool play game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park to collect their 40th win, a new single-season program record.
The game, no matter how it ended, had no impact on Duke’s ACC championship hopes. The Blue Devils (40-14) play No. 5 seed Louisville at 11 a.m. Friday, with the winner advancing as the Pool D Champion into Saturday’s tournament semifinals.
While the Blue Devils have big goals like winning the ACC, being selected as an NCAA regional host and reaching the College World Series, they took time to appreciate the school's first 40-win baseball season.
"I think it just shows where the program has come from in the four years I've been here under coach (Chris) Pollard's guidance," Duke senior third baseman/relief pitcher Jack Labosky said. "Forty wins is a big milestone. It's the mark of an elite program. Getting that 40th win today, even though this game may not have meant as much in the ACC tournament, it's one of those games where we could have come out, rolled over, waited for it to happen and looked forward to tomorrow."
The game stretching deep into extra innings, lasting four hours and 28 minutes on a hot day, can’t be good for Duke’s pitching staff heading into its important game with the Cardinals (41-16) on Friday.
Against Wake Forest, Duke failed to turn rallies into runs.
After stranding five runners between the 10th and 12th innings, Duke finally broke through in the 13th with the help of Wake Forest freshman pitcher Antonio Menendez.
Duke junior right fielder Griffin Conine singled and, two outs later, Menendez hit Blue Devils junior outfielder Kennie Taylor with a two-strike pitch before doing the same on a two-strike pitch to freshman outfielder Steve Mann.
With the bases loaded, Labosky walked on 3-1 pitch to give Duke the 3-2 lead.
Wake junior pitcher Tyler Witt replaced Menendez and walked junior outfielder Jimmy Herron to give Duke a two-run lead.
Duke junior center Chris Proctor followed with a two-run single to make the lead more comfortable for the Blue Devils.
"Our bullpen made it real easy on us," Conine said. "They made it seem like it was quicker than it was. We were back in the dugout so quick that we got to cool off, and I think that eventually helped our offense."
Fortunately for Duke, its relief pitching turned in stellar work to keep Wake Forest down.
Graeme Stinson, Evan DeCaster, Bryce Jarvis and Labosky combined to allow just three hits (all singles) over eight scoreless innings.
"Just an unbelievable job by our bullpen to keep us in the ball game," coach Pollard said. "We had a lot of opportunities. We didn't capitalize. Finally we got a break late and we took advantage of it."
Projected to go as early as the second round in next month’s pro baseball draft, Wake Forest junior right-handed pitcher Griffin Roberts started and pitched 7 ⅓ innings, limiting Duke to four hits and two runs.