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Duke Nips Liberty With 2 Runs in Ninth
The Duke Blue Devils rallied for two runs in the ninth to trim the Liberty Flames, 6-5, Tuesday evening at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Liberty erased a two-run Duke advantage in the seventh to carry a one-run, 5-4, lead into the ninth, before the Blue Devils' comeback. After Duke used three-straight, one-out hits to tie the contest, a two-out walk with the bases loaded to catcher Chris Proctor gave Duke the 6-5 win.
Liberty falls to 30-20 on the season. The Flames finish the regular season with a 15-7 mark in road games. Duke moves to 27-25.
Duke jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first. Left fielder Jimmy Herron and shortstop Zack Kone opened the home half of the first inning with singles. After designated hitter Griffin Conine walked to load the bases, third baseman Jack Labosky lifted a fly ball to center to plate Herron with the first run of the game. Two batters later, second baseman Max Miller's two-out single gave the Blue Devils a 2-0 edge. Right fielder Peter Zyla followed with a RBI single for a 3-0 lead.
Liberty cut into Duke's lead in the top of the fifth. Kowalo led off the inning with a home run to center field for the Flames' first run of the contest. Shepherd followed with a single and stole second. After shortstop Cam Locklear singled to move Shepherd to third, catcher Matt Allen scored Shepherd with a bunt to pull Liberty to within one at 3-2.
In the bottom of inning, the Blue Devils answered with a run of their own. Herron singled and Kone walked to begin the home half of the fifth. A two-out single by center fielder Kennie Taylor pushed across Herron to give Duke a two-run cushion at 4-2.
Duke loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth, only to come away empty. After the Blue Devils filled the bases with one out, Flames' reliever Shane Quarterley worked out of the jam, striking out Kone and getting Conine to ground routinely to second to end the inning and the scoring threat.
Liberty struck for three runs in the seventh to take their first lead of the contest. Kowalo and Shepherd led off the inning with back-to-back singles. After catcher Matt Allen drew a one-out walk to load the bases, Artis beat out a ground ball to the right side of the infield for a single, scoring Kowalo. A wild throw on the attempt to throw Artis out by Duke first baseman Jalen Phillips allowed Shepherd to come home and tie the game at 4-4. Third baseman Trey McDyre followed with a run-scoring single to give the Flames a 5-4 advantage.
In the bottom of the ninth, Duke tied the contest with three-straight singles. Labosky and center fielder Kennie Taylor singled with one out, ahead of a run-scoring single by Miller to knot the game at 5-5. Pinch hitter Justin Bellinger then walked to load the bases. After a pitching change by the Flames, reliever Cody Gamble struck out Phillips for the second out, before Proctor drew a base on balls to force in a run for the 6-5 win.
Right-hander Eric Grabowski falls to 1-3 for the Flames. He gave up two runs on three hits over 2/3 of an inning of relief. He walked two.
Right-hander Karl Blum moves to 2-1. The Blue Devils' reliever pitched two scoreless innings, striking out two.
Duke outhit Liberty, 12-8. Each team committed an error in the contest.
Up Next: Liberty will close out its 2017 regular season, beginning Thursday night. The Flames will host the Presbyterian Blue Hose for a Big South Conference series. First pitch on Thursday is set for 6 p.m.