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No. 9 Virginia baseball drops series at No. 11 Duke

The two losses bring the Cavaliers to a 7-5 conference record

<p>Junior right-handed pitcher Chase Hungate picked up Virginia's only win over the series Friday, allowing just two hits over 4.1 innings of work.</p>

Junior right-handed pitcher Chase Hungate picked up Virginia's only win over the series Friday, allowing just two hits over 4.1 innings of work.

Virginia took on Duke this weekend for a conference series in Durham, N.C. After coming in with a six-game win streak, the No. 9 Cavaliers (22-6, 7-5 ACC) were unable to deliver against the No. 11 Blue Devils (20-8, 6-6 ACC), losing two of the three games.

Game 1 — Virginia 4, Duke 9

After three quick outs for Virginia’s offense, sophomore right-handed pitcher Cullen McKay made the start for Virginia Thursday. The first inning was a struggle for McKay, hitting a batter, walking a batter and allowing three hits that resulted in a two-run inning for Duke. In their best efforts to respond in the second, the Cavaliers produced one run off an RBI single by sophomore infielder Henry Godbout. Scoring was then held at a standstill until the fourth inning, with three runs from the Blue Devils prompting a pitching change — sophomore right-handed pitcher Ryan Osinski took over for McKay. Even with the change on the mound, a runner on third all but guaranteed a fourth run to extend the Duke lead to 6-1.

The fifth inning provided free opportunities for Virginia with two walked batters and an easy advance to third from a wild pitch. With junior catcher Ethan Anderson on third, a ground-out from junior infielder Griff O’Ferrall added a run to put the Cavaliers four runs below the Blue Devils. However, McKay struggled to find his rhythm in the bottom of the fifth, as a wild pitch and an error from left field created opportunities for Duke, who widened the gap to 8-2.

Aside from another pitching change for Virginia in the bottom of the sixth with sophomore right-handed pitcher Aidan Teel taking over for Osinski, a couple of quick outs rapidly moved the game into the seventh. Two clutch hits put the Cavaliers in position to score, and a subsequent ground-out brought graduate catcher Jacob Ference home to make the score 8-3.

Another lull left the score unchanged until the bottom of the eighth. Junior left-handed pitcher Matthew Buchanan took over for Teel in the bottom of the seventh and had solid control of the Duke offense until a hit, a walk and a passed ball allowed the Blue Devils to tack on another run for a 9-3 lead. 

With only one inning left to produce six runs and put the pressure on Duke, Virginia made an effort to get its batters on base. Sophomore outfielder Harrison Didawick got himself around the bases and scored with the help of two ground-outs, but a fly out put a pin in the Cavaliers’ comeback and ended the game 9-4 in favor of the Blue Devils.

Game 2 — Virginia 7, Duke 3

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Evan Blanco started for Virginia Friday in the match that tied the series for the Cavaliers. After a quiet first inning for both offenses, Virginia had an explosive second inning with five hits that put the Cavaliers up 4-0 on the Blue Devils. Freshman infielder Henry Ford started the scoring for Virginia with the first of three straight singles, the other two coming from Didawick and Ference. After Ference stole second, a ground-out from Anderson brought Didawick home. A double from freshman infielder Eric Becker got Ference around the bases and a single from O’Ferrall capped the scoring for the Cavaliers to create a 4-0 lead.

The Virginia defense made quick work of the Duke offense with three successive outs. The top of the third inning held yet another scoring opportunity for the Cavaliers. After a walk and wild pitch put junior outfielder Anthony Stephan on second, a double to left center from junior outfielder Casey Saucke added a run to increase the lead to 5-0. Three hits for the Blue Devils gave Duke its first run of the game to cut the lead 5-1. 

A Godbout double to lead off the fourth inning prompted a pitching change from the Blue Devils. After a ground-out, Becker was walked and created the perfect situation for O’Ferrall, who hit a double that scored both Godbout and Becker to make the game 7-1. 

Ford was hit by a pitch in the top of the fifth, and this was followed by a Ference walk and Godbout also being hit by pitch. With the bases loaded and only one out, Duke made another pitching change. Virginia was unable to capitalize on the bases loaded opportunity and a strike out and ground out ended the top half of the inning.

Blanco found himself in trouble in the bottom of the fifth, and the Cavaliers turned to junior right-handed pitcher Chase Hungate to find a way out of a two-out, bases loaded situation. A single from the Blue Devils allowed two runs and brought the score to 7-3. The highlight of the fifth was an unbelievable sliding behind-the-back flip from O’Ferrall to rob Duke of second base. 

The theatrics ended with the fifth inning, as no more runs were scored for the rest of the game, ending with a 7-3 score. Hungate earned the win, allowing only two hits over 4.1 innings. A successful performance on both sides of the ball kept Virginia in the series and opened up the opportunity for a must-win situation Saturday to improve its conference record.

Game Three — Virginia 4, Duke 7

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Kevin Jaxel made his second start for the Cavaliers Saturday and pitched five innings, not allowing a hit until the fourth inning and only surrendering three hits and two runs overall. 

Virginia had minimal scoring opportunities until the top of the third inning, when doubles from O’Ferrall and Saucke resulted in a 1-0 lead. Neither side scored again until the top of the fourth. After Ference hit a single through the left side and subsequently stole second, a single from Godbout allowed Ference to run home to extend the lead 2-0.

In the bottom of the fourth, a single and home-run from the Blue Devils tied the game 2-2. Aside from the fourth, Jaxel pitched a clean five innings and left the match with an even score. 

The Cavaliers’ offense continued to struggle to build momentum in the sixth, with a Godbout double being the only hit. Graduate left-handed pitcher Owen Coady briefly took over for Jaxel, but junior right-handed pitcher Jay Woolfolk took over after Coady walked a batter. The inning ended scoreless, holding the 2-2 tie.

Virginia took a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh after doubles from O’Ferrall and Ford added a run. However, the bottom of the seventh was when things got derailed for the Cavaliers. After walking the first batter and allowing a double that put Duke in scoring position, Virginia called upon graduate left-handed pitcher Angelo Tonas. Tonas’ time on the mound resulted in five runs for the Blue Devils and produced a deficit that the Cavaliers were unable to come back from, leaving the inning with a 7-3 score. 

In the eighth, Ference found himself in scoring position after being walked and advancing to second on a wild pitch. A single from sophomore infielder Luke Hanson got Ference back home to lessen the Duke lead to 7-4, but the offense was unable to produce any more runs.

The rest of the game was scoreless, and after a single from Saucke in the top of the ninth, three quick outs ended any comeback chances for Virginia, ending the game with a 7-4 deficit.

Despite its best efforts of the offense, Virginia appears to have found its Achilles’ heel in the strength of its bullpen. In a series that would likely cement the Cavaliers in the NCAA’s top-ten rankings for the week to come, Virginia’s relief pitchers were unable to perform on the necessary level. 

A Tuesday matchup against Old Dominion is the first of a six-game homestand coming up for the Cavaliers. The first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ACCNX. Looking ahead to the weekend, the Cavaliers will face off against conference opponent North Carolina Thursday. The series kicks off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ACCN and ACCNX.


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