North Carolina

Duke rallies to upset Clemson at ACC baseball tourney

Duke’s Mitch Stallings pitches in to the Clemson side during game three of the 2017 ACC Baseball Tournament in Louisville, Ky.
Duke’s Mitch Stallings pitches in to the Clemson side during game three of the 2017 ACC Baseball Tournament in Louisville, Ky. AP

Duke starter Mitch Stallings gave up three home runs, including two in the first five at-bats, against Clemson on Tuesday night in the ACC tournament at Louisville Slugger Field.

The three solo shots put Duke in a hole, but the Blue Devils were able to dig out of it with three unearned runs and some solid defense.

The Blue Devils tied the score with a run in the seventh and scored three in the top of the eighth inning for a 6-3 upset of the Tigers.

“We were opportunistic with our hits,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said. “We were very fortunate in some ways with a few soft hits that just fell in.

“I’m really happy with our guys. Mitch gave us a tremendous start, and our guys just went out there and competed. And we had a few balls fall in for us.”

Stallings worked 5 2/3 innings and allowed all seven hits and three runs, while Nick Hendrix (3-1) worked the final 3 1/3 and his only blemish was a hit batter.

“Timely hitting wins games,” left fielder Jimmy Herron said. “And our bullpen has been great and (Hendrix) was that tonight.”

The Blue Devils (29-27) now play Virginia at 11 a.m. on Thursday. A win puts Duke into the semifinals on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s an elimination game, just like this one was,” Pollard said.

Added Herron: “We have to win it just like we had to do today. We have an off day tomorrow, and we have played them before, so we have an idea what they’ll do.”

Duke scored a run in the top of the first, but Chase Pinder led off the bottom of the inning with a solo home run, and Andrew Cox led off the second with a home run.

It was a Logan Davidson homer in the fourth that made it 3-1. But after that No. 14 Clemson had just four more hits, and the Blue Devils only walked one batter.

“Duke threw the ball exceptionally well,” Clemson coach Monte Lee said. “The runs we scored were all on solo home runs, so their pitching staff did a nice job with runners on bases and they did a great job defensively in the end.”

Duke pushed across an unearned run in the fourth when Reed Rohlman dropped a fly ball with two outs, and then Herron’s two-out single in the seventh tied the score.

The Blue Devils scored three in the eight, including a check-swing double that went down the left-field line for Michael Smiciklas. The hit plated Griffin Conine.

Jalen Phillips then had a two-out single that scored Kennie Taylor and Smiciklas to put the Blue Devils ahead.

“I’m proud of the guys,” Pollard said. “Everything they got they had to earn. We have a philosophy that solo home runs are not going to beat us.”