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Baseball tops Duke 2-1 in weekend series

The Cavaliers secured the first two but came up short in Sunday’s game

<p>Abbott is one of two Cavaliers since 2000 to strikeout 14 or more batters twice.</p>

Abbott is one of two Cavaliers since 2000 to strikeout 14 or more batters twice.

Virginia baseball clinched its first series against Duke since 2017 over the weekend, picking up wins Friday and Saturday but missing out on its first series sweep with a loss Sunday. While the Cavaliers (19-19, 11-16 ACC) had an excellent weekend at the plate with a combined 30 hits, the Blue Devils (18-18, 9-15 ACC) scored 12 of 13 runs on home runs — four coming in the team’s final win.

Game 1: Virginia 9, Duke 3

Two players put on stellar performances in Virginia’s commanding 9-3 win over Duke Friday. Starting senior pitcher Andrew Abbott held the Cavaliers steady on defense through seven innings, matching a career-high 14 strikeouts and limiting the Blue Devils to seven hits. Junior shortstop Nic Kent sent his second grand slam of the season over the left field wall in the bottom of the fourth inning and finished the evening 2-for-5 at the plate with five RBI.

Virginia got on the board early in the bottom of the first after sophomore second baseman Max Cotier scored on an RBI single by senior first baseman Devin Ortiz. Cotier finished the day 2-for-3 at the plate with two runs and two RBI, the first driven in off a single in the bottom of the second inning. 

Duke tied the game at two after scoring a run in the third and fourth innings. Senior first baseman Chris Crabtree and senior catcher Michael Rothenberg each sent solo home runs over the fence to knot the score heading into the bottom of the fourth as the Cavaliers came up to bat. 

Cotier continued his momentum on the scoring end and hit a single into right field to score third baseman Zack Gelof, taking back the lead at 3-2. A few at-bats later, with the bases loaded and one out, Kent sent a shot deep over the left field fence to cap a six-run fourth inning for Virginia.

The Cavaliers scored a final run in the bottom of the eighth as Kent recorded his fifth RBI with a double down the left field line to score senior right fielder Alex Tappen. 

In part due to Abbott’s stellar day on the hill, Duke was only able to grind out one other run in the top of the sixth — another solo home run. The left-hander finished his fourth successful start with no walks and recorded strikeouts in seven of his last eight outs. As he continues to record Ks on the mound, Abbott currently sits at sixth place on UVA’s all-time strikeout list with 256 — 91 coming in 2021 alone. 

“Andrew Abbott was outstanding tonight,” Coach Brian O’Connor said. “Even though he gave up the three solo home runs, the fact that he had no walks was really important for him and for us. It was a total collective, team effort from an offensive standpoint. Everybody in the starting lineup had a hit, there were contributions and quality at bats throughout the lineup. Obviously Nic Kent’s big grand slam really opened it up for us and it was a big at bat (in the game).”

Game 2: Virginia 4, Duke 3

Virginia picked up the series-clinching win Saturday with a 4-3 victory fueled by a four-run second inning. Junior Mike Vasil, junior Brandon Neeck and graduate student Stephen Schoch combined for 10 strikeouts as the Cavalier pitching staff continues to add Ks to the books this season.

After falling behind in the first, Virginia responded by scoring all of its runs in the bottom of the second inning. Sophomore designated hitter Tate Ballestero started the drive with a two-out infield single that effectively evaded the infield shift. Sophomore center fielder Chris Newell followed up at the plate as a fielding error allowed a pair of runs to cross home. An RBI double by Gelof brought in another run, and Cotier finished the frame with an RBI single to put Virginia ahead 4-1. The four-run, five-hit rally decided the game as the Blue Devils couldn’t overcome the deficit. 

“The second inning, the four runs with two outs and nobody on was the ball game for us,” O’Connor said. “We didn’t do much else offensively but fortunately that was enough.”

Duke looked to make a comeback in the top of the sixth, scoring a pair of runs off a home run by junior left-fielder RJ Schreck. With six strikeouts in six innings pitched, however, Vasil captured the victory to record his sixth win of the season. 

Neeck did his part as he produced four outs in 1.1 innings and Schoch came in for relief to pitch a perfect 1-2-3 eighth inning before closing out the game in the ninth for his seventh save of the year. 

Gelof and Cotier both had impressive performances in the game. Gelof finished the day 2-for-4 at the plate, accounting for one of Virginia’s runs and bringing in one. Gelof has now reached bases in the last 14 games and recorded a hit in the past 11 games. Cotier followed Friday’s performance with another successful day at the plate and combined for three hits, runs and RBI in the first two games against the Blue Devils. 

Game 3: Virginia 4, Duke 7

While the Cavaliers secured their first series-win against Duke since 2017, they fell 7-4 in the final game after the Blue Devils produced four home runs Sunday. Of Duke’s 13 runs in three games, 12 came off of home runs during the series.

The Blue Devils jumped on the board first with three runs in the second inning. Crabtree knocked a three-run homer to give them an early lead. In the bottom of the inning, however, the Cavaliers tied things up in a single at-bat. With the bases loaded, Gelof hit a double into the right-center gap to score three runs, firing up the Virginia bench as it got back in the game. Gelof finished the day with another multi-hit performance as he finished 2-for-4 with his 10th double of the season and three RBI.

A solo home run off the bat of Rothenberg, who accounted for three home runs in the series, gave Duke a 4-3 advantage, which it held until the Cavaliers tied things up again in the fifth. After leading the fifth with a double, Ortiz rounded home on a throwing error, scoring the equalizer at 4-4. 

Virginia couldn’t come up with any runs through the rest of the matchup as the Blue Devils scored three more to secure the win. One run came from a solo home run by junior second baseman Will Hoyle while two more came in the eighth off a homer by graduate student right fielder Peter Matt. 

“We missed out on a terrific opportunity to get our first series sweep and we just didn’t do enough,” O’Connor said. “Their offense was clearly driven by the home run. A credit to them, you make a mistake and they make you pay for it. We did enough in the first two days to not allow it to hurt us but today it did. We got a good series win, I’m proud of our guys, we just need to learn to take that next step and sweep the series.”

The Cavaliers return to action Tuesday in a home game against Liberty. Game time is scheduled for 3 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.