ATHENS, Ga. — With a trip to an NCAA Super Regional on the line, No. 18 Duke defeated ninth-ranked Georgia twice Monday, posting an 8-5 and 8-4 victories at Foley Field. The Blue Devils advance to face Texas Tech.
Georgia concludes its season 39-21 overall, marking a 14-game improvement in the win column from the 2017 season. During Southeastern Conference play, the Bulldogs finished 18-12, tying for the second-best finish in the league. The season caps Georgia’s deepest run in the postseason since 2011.
In the final game Monday, the Bulldogs struck first in the second inning. LJ Talley jumpstarted the Georgia offense lacing an RBI double down the right-field line scoring Cam Shepherd from first. On a two-base throwing error Tally was able to race home on the play giving the Bulldogs an early 2-0 advantage.
After two scoreless frames, the Blue Devil bats picked up, tallying five times in the top of the third inning highlighted by back-to-back home runs from Zack Kone and Griffin Conine giving Duke a 5-2 lead. Georgia drew closer in the fourth on designated hitter Michael Curry’s 13th home run of the year but Conine answered with his second long-ball of the game making the score 6-3.
Pinch-hitter Mitchell Webb led the Bulldogs half of the seventh inning off with a single and was later driven home by Aaron Schunk but the Bulldogs stranded Schunk heading to the final two frames trailing 6-4.
The Blue Devils kept the pressure on the Bulldogs adding two more insurance runs in the ninth including a Jimmy Herron home run pushing the lead to 8-4. Closer Jack Lobosky retired the Bulldogs 1-2-3 in the ninth inning.
Blue Devils Force Decisive Game 7 in Athens Regional
In the first game of the day, Duke Blue Devils registered an 8-5 win over Georgia to force a decisive seventh game in the Athens Regional for a trip to the NCAA Super Regionals.
Two-out hitting by the designated home team Duke Blue Devils broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the first, but the Bulldogs quickly answered with four of their own in the top of the second. Back-to-back singles by Adam Sasser and Cam Shepherd started the rally and singles by C.J. Smith and Tucker Bradley plated the first four Georgia runs giving the Bulldogs a 4-1 advantage.
The red-hot Blue Devil offense would respond in the bottom half with two more on designated hitter Chris Crabtree’s eighth hit of the regional, an RBI double to left cutting the lead to 4-3.
Freshman starting pitcher Emerson Hancock settled into a groove in the middle innings allowing just one run after the second inning. The righty allowed just three earned runs in 5.1 innings of work striking out two. After a run-scoring sixth-inning double to answer a Georgia tally in the previous frame, the Bulldogs turned to Adam Goodman out of the bullpen who stranded two men in scoring position keeping the game tied at 5-5.
The Duke offense continued to put pressure on the Bulldog bullpen reclaiming the lead after a three run seventh inning. A solo home run by Griffin Conine and a two-run home run by Kennie Taylor extended the Duke advantage to 8-5.
Duke turned to Jack Labosky for the final three innings where he turned in a 1-2-3 scoreless ninth inning preserving an 8-5 Duke win forcing a winner take all elimination.
Postgame Quotes: #18 Duke vs. #9 Georgia
Georgia Head Coach Scott Stricklin
Opening statement and Season Review
“First off, I want to congratulate Coach Pollard and Duke. I thought they played excellent baseball. When they were down 8-1 earlier in the tournament, they flipped the switch and they played excellent baseball from that point on. They deserve a lot of credit and I wanted to tip my cap to them. I thought they played great baseball today. It’s extremely disappointing to be in the position that we’re in and not be able to move on. I can’t…it’s hard to put into words. I told our team the further that you go, the more you accomplish, when it ends, it ends it’s even more disappointing. It hurts a lot.
“We’ve got five great seniors that have turned this program around and that’s what we’ve done: turn this program around. We’ve got five great seniors that will be moving on. Some will continue to play and some will move on with their lives outside of baseball, but I’m proud of those guys and I’m just proud of this team. No one gave us a chance: we were picked to finish fifth in the (Southeastern Conference) East (division) this year, and we tied second overall in the toughest conference in the country. We hosted a regional and we achieved a national seed. No one gave us that opportunity, and these kids didn’t believe any of that. They believed in themselves and they stuck together. They fought really hard. I can’t be more proud of what they’ve accomplished.”
Georgia Player Aaron Schunk
On appreciating this season despite its end…
“I would say it’s hard right now. We’ve made it a long way. This team was in a tough spot a couple years ago and Coach Stricklin and his recruiting process with all the guys in this room, we knew that we had something special and we knew we were building something great. Everybody appreciates that. We appreciate getting this far. As a competitor, you want what’s next. You want next week. You want what comes after that. We appreciate it and we want more.”
Georgia Player Keegan McGovern
On the emotions of the season ending…
“That’s one of the things that makes it kind of hard: that I didn’t do what I was supposed to do today, but this has been the best four years of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Duke Head Coach Chris Pollard
Opening statement and Regional Review
“I’m kind of at a loss for words. I want to congratulate Georgia on an unbelievable season. I’m very happy for Coach Stricklin and very happy for Coach Hughes, a good friend of mine. To say that I’m proud of our team is the biggest understatement that I’ve ever said. Unbelievable resiliency and character and fight. They’ve got a lot invested in one another. I think that it’s very fitting that Mitch and Griffin are sitting here because these two guys epitomize the fight and resiliency of this team. Mitch is one of the best pitchers in the history of this program. He has pitched big innings for us since he first walked on campus as a freshman, but the last four weeks have been really hard, probably the hardest four weeks that he’s had since he’s been at Duke. He’s been able to grind his way through it and gave us the biggest start of his career and the biggest start in the history of this program.
“And then beside him, Griffin Conine, who had to grind his way and work his way and compete his way through a tough first half of the year. I think this regional is a microcosm and to battle all that he has had to go through with the microscope that’s been on him nonstop the whole way and to turn it on and have such an unbelievable finish to the year and put together a great year. The same thing happened in this regional. He had a tough first couple of days and then turned it around and really led this team offensively over the last two days. I’m incredibly proud of both of them.”
On being down 8-1 against Campbell in game 3 and coming back to win the Regional
“It was really tough. And our guys, right before the rain delay, our guys were starting to really wear their frustration. I actually saw do some things that were uncharacteristic for us in terms of the way that the frustration was starting to spill out. During the rain delay, I just said very simply that “look we got two and two-thirds innings to play right here. We’ve got a lot invested in one another. Let’s go out and play as hard as we possibly can. And let’s play with a lot of poise and self-discipline. Maybe we do something special, but maybe we don’t. But we are going to walk out of here with our heads held high.”
Duke Player Griffin Conine
On his at-bats throughout the regional
“The best way I can put it is that hitting is contagious. It really is. You know after that finish to Campbell, we started clicking as an offense and that makes it so much easier. I think I was, when we were struggling I was not hitting with runners on a lot. I was just trying to do too much. I felt like I had to put balls in the gap and over the fence to make a difference for the team and to get runs in. And then when you consistently have guys on and guys scoring, balls being banged around the park, it just takes a lot of pressure off.”
NCAA ATHENS REGIONAL ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
P: Mitch Stallings, Duke
P: Corey Childress, Troy
C: Chris Proctor, Duke
DH: Chris Crabtree, Duke
1B: Adam Sasser, Georgia
2B: Max Miller, Duke
3B: Drew Federic, Troy
SS: Zack Kone, Duke
OF: Griffin Conine, Duke
OF: Keegan McGovern, Georgia
OF: Joey Denison, Troy
Most Outstanding Player: Chris Crabtree, Duke