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DURHAM, N.C. – In an attempt to do what no Virginia Tech team has done since joining the ACC, the Hokies received a strong pitching performance from Joe Mantiply, but their offense was stymied in a 3-2 loss to the Duke Blue Devils on Friday night at Bulls Athletic Park.
Mantiply, who was also looking to become only the second Tech pitcher to win four straight ACC starts, allowed six hits, three runs and two walks in 7 2/3 innings while striking out a career-high tying nine batters – for the second straight week.
The Hokies, who were looking to win four straight road conference games for the first time since 2002, dropped to 24-20 with the loss and 7-15 in the ACC, while Duke is now 21-24, 5-17 in league action.
Tech had the lead-off runner on base in every inning – except the third and seventh – but through the first seven frames could only scratch out one run, in the second. Andrew Rash scored on a two-out single by Johnny Morales, who had a career-high four hits in the game.
The Hokies stranded two on base in the fourth and left the bases loaded in the fifth.
Meanwhile, other than a two-minute stretch in the bottom of the second, Mantiply was pretty flawless through the first six innings on the hill.
After striking out two of the first three batters in a perfect first, he surrendered a lead-off double to Chris Marconcini in the second, who took third on a balk. Mantiply’s first pitch to Anthony D’Alessandro was hit for an RBI single, which tied the game at 1-1.
He then got a double-play ball to erase D’Alessandro and ended the frame with a strikeout. He allowed two more base runners over the next four innings and both were erased on double plays, with the Hokies turning a season-high tying three in the contest.
In the seventh, David Perkins hit a lead-off single and scored on Will Piwnica-Worms RBI double to center, and he moved to third on a ground out. Mantiply responded with a strikeout and a groundout to strand the Blue Devils first base runner of the game.
Blue Devil starter Dennis O’Grady worked seven innings, allowed six hits, one earned run, walked three and struck out seven. He was relieved by Marcus Stroman in the eighth, who was greeted by Tim Smalling with a double and Rash singled to put runners on the corners.
After a strikeout, Tyler Horan, who in his first at-bat hit a pinch-hit single in the sixth, came through with a sacrifice fly to center to tie the game at 2-2.
In the bottom of the eighth, Mantiply’s mastery ran out, as he walked the first batter, allowed a single, and both runners moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. With the infield drawn in, Mantiply induced a groundout for the second out of the game.
Jake Joyce was called upon to get the final out of the inning, but uncorked a wild pitch with his second toss, allowing the go-ahead run to cross the plate.
In the ninth, Morales led off with his fourth hit of the game, but three straight outs left a runner stranded at first to end the contest.
The two teams will battle again on Saturday with first pitch slated for 2 p.m.
For updates on Virginia Tech baseball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Baseball).