Duke dug itself an early hole Friday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament Athens Regional, one it never could find its way out of in a 6-0 loss to Troy.
Duke (40-16) will next face a losers’ bracket elimination game at 4 p.m. Saturday against the loser of Saturday’s noon game between top-seeded Georgia and Campbell.
“I have a good feeling this club will come out playing very hard and very hungry,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said following Friday’s loss.
Troy (42-19) sent nine batters to the plate and scored four runs in the third inning. Joey Denison’s three-run double to right center field led to the eventual departure of Duke starter Ryan Day (5-4) and Brody Binder greeted reliever Bryce Jarvis with a run-scoring double down the left-field line.
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With a run-scoring single in the fourth inning, Denison, the Sun Belt Conference player of the year, added to his school-record RBI total (78) for the season and essentially put the game out of reach for Duke.
The game was then stopped in the middle of the fifth inning and resumed at 9:15 p.m. after a five-hour, 25-minute weather delay.
Even after the delay, Duke had no answers for Troy relief pitcher Corey Childress (4-2), who allowed three singles over the final six innings while not walking a batter and striking out nine.
“We’ve got to swing the bats a lot better than we swung the bats tonight,” Pollard said. “That’s no disrespect to Troy. Their guys both threw the ball well and threw a lot of strikes. But we’re a better offensive club than that.”
Duke was shut out for the second time this season, the previous time coming on March 10 in a 3-0 home loss to Virginia.
If there was a bright spot for Duke it was four innings of one-run relief by Hunter Davis, who helped save the Blue Devils other bullpen arms for the remainder of the tournament.
With the loss, Duke still has not won an NCAA tournament game since 1961 when the Blue Devils reached the College World Series. Duke’s only other NCAA tournament appearance since was in 2016 when it lost consecutive games in regional play.