Duke used its secret weapon and its most potent weapon Sunday to reach the finals of the NCAA tournament Athens Regional.
The Blue Devils got a pair of home runs and four hits from seldom-used designated hitter Chris Crabtree and more than eight innings of solid relief from its steady-all-season bullpen to defeat Troy 15-6 in Sunday’s elimination game.
One day after winning its first NCAA tournament game in 57 years, Duke (41-16) stayed alive and now must defeat top-seeded and unbeaten Georgia twice on Monday to reach the NCAA Super Regionals. First pitch for the opening game is 1 p.m.
Duke’s offense kicked into high gear for the second consecutive game. The Blue Devils, held to one run over the first 15 innings of the tournament, exploded for 15 runs in the final three innings of Saturday’s 16-8 victory over Campbell.
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Duke pounded out 22 hits in Sunday’s win, led by Crabtree, who was making his first start of the season. Crabtree had only 14 at bats during the regular season and ACC tournament, but came on in Saturday’s game to produce a three-run, ninth-inning double that gave Duke its first lead of the game.
Against Troy, he hit a two-run blast to right-center field on the first pitch he saw in the second inning. After walking in the third inning, Crabtree produced a single in the fifth inning, a towering two-run homer to left-center field in the seventh inning and a run-scoring single in the eighth inning.
“What he’s done over the last two days is kind of like legendary stuff,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said of Crabtree, a freshman from Durham Riverside High, who is seven-for-nine in the regional with eight RBIs.
Duke’s starters have lasted only 7 2/3 innings, allowing 13 earned runs in the first three games of the regional. The bullpen has stepped up in each game, including the win over Troy.
Ethan DeCaster entered the game after Troy struck for four runs in the first inning and pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing two runs and running his record to 6-0 with the win. Then Bryce Jarvis pitched four perfect innings with eight strikeouts to earn his first save.
“Just a tremendous gutty effort by those two guys to keep Troy from putting anything together offensively,” Pollard said of DeCaster and Jarvis.