Duke scored three times in the bottom of the ninth inning on Wednesday afternoon to rally and defeat Valparaiso 5-4 in Durham, N.C.
Gabriel Saade’s two-run single up the middle with two outs in the bottom of the ninth gave the Blue Devils their 11th win without a defeat this season. Duke trailed 4-2 heading into the ninth, before Jake Lemmerman singled home the first run of the inning.
“Again we have to get the ball down while pitching,” head coach Tracy Woodson said afterwards. “When we don’t they hit it and that’s what happened in the ninth today.”
With the game tied at one, a three-run fifth inning put Valpo on top. After Justin Frane (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll H.S.) led off the inning with a walk, John Giusti (Coventry, R.I./Coventry H.S.) followed with a single. Jason Brunelli (Greenfield, Wis./Greenfield H.S.) loaded the bases with another hit before Damon McCormick (Louisville, Ky./Saint Xavier H.S.) put the Brown and Gold on top with a run-scoring single of his own. Zach Rodeghero (New Lenox, Ill./Providence Catholic H.S.) followed with a two-run single putting Valpo in front 4-1. Rodeghero extended his hitting streak to 12 straight games, dating back to last season.
Duke scored first in the opening inning as Gabriel Saade led off the game with a double and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly.
The Crusaders tied the game in the top half of the fourth inning as Josh Wallace (Bellefontaine, Ohio/Bellefontaine H.S.) singled home McCormick. McCormick walked and eventually stole third prior to Wallace’s game-tying single.
Valpo then erupted for the three runs in the fifth inning before Duke added a run in the sixth on a run-scoring single by Alex Hanssan to cut the Brown and Gold lead to two. The Crusaders had a chance to add an insurance run in the ninth, but stranded a runner on third.
“We had a chance to add another run, yet we didn’t execute in the ninth,” Woodson added. “We’re playing well enough to win games. We just have to get the job done.”
Bryce Shafer (Wabash, Ind./Northfield H.S.) had another solid outing for the Crusaders on the mound, allowing just three hits and two runs in seven strong innings of work. Jarad Miller (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll H.S.) suffered the loss (0-1) in relief for Valpo.
“Bryce didn’t walk anyone today, and anytime he gives us seven innings like this we need to get him a win,” Woodson said.
Ryan Perry (1-0) earned the win in relief for Duke (11-0).
Valparaiso (2-6) will head to Greensboro, N.C. on Thursday afternoon to face North Carolina-Greensboro. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m. CST with all the action carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.