KNOXVILLE, Tn. (WNCN) — The Duke baseball team started slow and fell behind only to come storming back but run out time losing the opening game of the Knoxville Regional to the Liberty Flames 11-6.
“The game itself was really a tale of two halves. I thought they dominated the first four innings; I thought we won the last five innings,” said Duke head coach Chris Pollard. “The difference was, they had two swings with two outs where we had a chance to get off the field with no further damage, and they ran two balls out of the yard.”
Duke’s (32-21) loss snapped the team’s 12-game winning streak. The streak was the third-longest active streak in the nation and tied for the third-longest in program history since 1935. The Flames used six extra-base hits, including three home runs, to establish an 11-1 lead through 4 innings.
“I thought a big moment in the game (came) early when (Graham) Pauley made a great play with the infield drawn in to throw the runner out at the plate,” said coach Pollard. “The game is 2-1—we’ve got a chance to get off the field right there, 2-1, with two outs, and we didn’t. That was a momentum swing.”
Junior Jack Carey started on the mound for the Duke. He allowed eight runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out three.
“I’m proud as heck of Jack Carey. I told him when I went to take him out of the game, we’re not in this position—I’m not here having this conversation—if it’s not for Jack Carey,” said coach Pollard. “We’ve ridden him pretty hard here down the stretch, and he’s answered the call for us.”
Despite the lopsided score graduate student Peter Matt had a career day at the dish. He was a triple shy of the cycle, finishing 4-for-5 with two home runs.
“Just working with Coach (Jason) Stein throughout the week prior to this weekend, I haven’t been really feeling great at the plate. I haven’t really gotten great results the past couple of weeks, but that’s baseball,” said Matt. “You are going to have ups and downs. You are going to have bad weekends. It’s just sticking with the process, sticking with the plan, working with Coach Stein, and talking to my teammates about my approach and what they are doing to have success, guys like Joey (Loperfido), RJ (Schreck), Mike (Rothenberg) and Ethan (Murray). I was able to get some good results.”
Down a game but not out in this double-elimination format the Blue Devils have their work cut out for them if they are going to advance to the super-regionals. History shows they can make it through the gauntlet that is the losers bracket. Some of the players on this team did just that in 2018 when they made it to the super-regionals from the loser’s bracket at the Athens Regional.
“The key is not to get caught up in on what’s going to happen on Sunday or what’s going to potentially happen on Monday. We just have to go out and play tomorrow. We have to go out and be in the moment tomorrow and do a good job being where our feet are. When that game is over with, we will get ready to go for Sunday,” said coach Pollard. “The reality is down the stretch, to make the ACC Tournament, to make the NCAA Tournament, we have been in practically elimination games anyway. It’s not a whole lot different for us.”