CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) – Duke jumped all over Florida State early and often in a 12-1 win in its opening game of the 2021 Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament.
“That was maybe our most complete baseball game of the year. We have been playing well of late but we took it to kind of another level today,” said Duke head coach Chris Pollard. “I thought we had terrific at bats to start the ball game and we were able to get them on their heels.”
The Blue Devils opened the scoring in the first inning. Joey Loperfido set the table with a leadoff single. Two batters later, Rj Schreck drove him in with another RBI single to give Duke a 1-0 lead. The big blow came from Michael Rothenberg. Hitting just .200 with runners in scoring position, the senior catcher squared up a 1-1 offering and drove it over the center-field wall for the grand slam and a five-run lead.
“Definitely just seeing the ball well. In the first inning, they brought in the righty after their lefty struggled to start and I was pretty happy about that,” Rothenberg said. “The first two pitches of the at-bat were fastballs in which he kind of painted, and then he went back to the third pitch which I cheated to the spot a little bit and was able to put a pretty good swing.”
Duke added three more in the fifth off a wild pitch, an RBI single by Erikson Nichols, and an RBI double by Joey Loperfido. Nichols added a two-run home run in the ninth to make it an 11-1 game.
The Blue Devils chewed through nine Florida State pitchers in racking up 12 runs on 13 hits.
“I thought we were really relentless. I thought the difference was we did such a great job of hitting in a small zone. Our plan of attack, offensively, going in to the ballgame was to really hunt fastball early,” Pollard said. “Florida State does a great job of mixing. They have a lot of power arms, but they still will really mix you with the off-speed and we felt like we really needed to hunt fastball early.”
“I don’t think there has been anyone better in the country than us these last 10 games. I think we get ahead of a lot of hitters, throwing the ball well and playing good defense,” Rothenberg added. “The thing about our lineup is I feel like it’s a different guy every day.”
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils pitching staff held one of the most potent offenses in the ACC in check all afternoon. Billy Seidl started the game and went 3 1/3 innings, striking out six, scattering three hits and giving up just one earned run. Matt Dockman went 2/3 of an inning to keep Duke in front. Jimmy Loper stepped up next, tossing 4 innings of no-hit, shutout baseball while striking out five and walking just one. Marcus Johnson came on for the final inning to close out Duke’s win.
“Billy (Seidl) was coming in and supposed to give us kind of two innings to start the game,” Rothenberg said. “His stuff is just so good he ends up going 3 1/3 and really getting us deeper in to the ball game.”
“I’ve had a couple of starts before. It wasn’t as much of a surprise, so I knew I just knew I had to go in and give it my all. It’s the ACC Tournament. It’s a really cool park,” Seidl said. “I just knew I had to go out and throw strikes and just keep doing my thing. I was excited and pumped up and glad it went well.”
The Blue Devils will try and keep the light out pitching and hot bats going tomorrow when they face the Miami Hurricanes. First pitch is set for 11 a.m.