Duke advances to ACC baseball semifinals with win over Virginia

Duke’s Chris Proctor takes a swing against Virginia during the ACC baseball tournament in Louisville, Ky.
Duke’s Chris Proctor takes a swing against Virginia during the ACC baseball tournament in Louisville, Ky. AP

Duke came into the ACC Baseball Tournament as the No. 9 seed, but the Blue Devils are headed to the semifinals at Louisville Slugger Field.

The Blue Devils won Pool D with a 4-3 victory over Virginia on Thursday. Duke beat Clemson in its other pool game on Tuesday.

Chris Proctor, the No. 9 hitter, had a two-out, two-run single on a full count in the bottom of the sixth inning to plate the tying and go-ahead run for the Blue Devils.

“I think we understand kind of where we’re at,” Proctor said. “We understand we have to play each game like it’s our last and we’re embracing that and playing really loose. We’re doing a good job and we know we can play with any team in the country and that we can win.”

Duke pitcher Ryan Day said he believes the Blue Devils are “underestimated,” while coach Chris Pollard kept saying how proud he was of his team.

“I’m proud because the team you’ve seen out on the field (here) was not the team that played the first 15 or 20 games of the season, and we weren’t very good at times early in the year,” Pollard said. “We had to overcome that, and for our guys to stay together, to stay committed to the program, to stay committed to each other and really work to be playing their best baseball at the end of the year I think speaks a lot about the culture that’s in that locker room and the leadership that’s in that locker room amongst our captains and our leadership council and our senior class.”

The Blue Devils (30-27) have Friday off and will play the winner of Pool A – either Louisville or Florida State – at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

“We never really struggle with confidence,” Day said. “I think that even when we’re behind, we never have this feeling that we’re not going to be able to come back or not be able to make the next pitch. I think we’re as special as any team when we’re on. This is just a great group of guys that are really meshing together right now.”

Day (4-3) earned the win with a solid 6 2/3 innings of work. He allowed six hits and three runs, while Nick Hendrix and Jack Labosky pitched the final 2 1/3 innings with no hits allowed and only two walks.

Virginia (44-12) led 2-1 until a three-run sixth by the Blue Devils. Max Miller’s run-scoring single tied the game and then Proctor had the big hit.

With two outs and two strikes, Proctor was ahead 3-0 but fouled off two pitches. He then singled to right to score two runs for the lead.

Virginia added a run in the top of the seventh, and the Cavaliers had a leadoff walk in the eighth and the ninth, but couldn’t get another run.

“I thought for the second ballgame in this tournament, we pitched very well,” Pollard said. “We commanded the strike zone, played really good defense behind our pitchers, and we did a good job of staying in the moment and making plays late in the ballgame. We beat a really good team. We beat a team that’s certainly going to host a regional. We beat a team that’s a very complete team with both the ability to pitch and defend, but I think maybe arguably the best offense in the country. They’re very difficult to put away. Our guys were up to the task today.”