DURHAM, N.C. – It took extra innings – and even an extra-long umpire discussion – but Virginia Tech won its seventh ACC road game of the season with a 6-5 victory over Duke Saturday afternoon at Bulls Athletic Park.
Tech, who improved to 25-20 overall and 8-15 in league play, is now 7-7 on the road in the conference. It marks the most wins on the road for the Hokies since joining the ACC, and they are now 2-0 in extra inning games this season. Duke dropped to 21-25, 5-18 with the loss.
The Hokies scored their go-ahead run in the top of the 10th thanks to Andrew Rash and a professional umpiring crew. Rash singled to lead off the frame, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tony Balisteri, took third on a grounder by Matt Blow and was still on third after Chad Morgan drew a walk.
Duke pitcher Marcus Stroman, in his second inning of relief, threw his first pitch to Johnny Morales and it ended up going to the back stop. Rash broke for home, but was called out when Stroman took the throw from Jeff Kremer and tagged out Rash.
However, the ball was clearly seen on the ground, but Rash was still called out and the teams cleared the field. The three umpires then met just in front of the mound and discussed the play for almost five minutes. The final decision was safe at home and the Hokies took a 6-5 lead.
Manny Martir, who was in his sixth inning of relief, got the first out of the inning, but then walked back-to-back batters – his only two in 5.1 innings of work. Ronnie Shaban came in to close out the game, getting two ground balls to end the game.
Martir improved to 2-1 with the victory, after allowing just four hits and one unearned run, while striking out a season-high five batters. Shaban earned his second save of 2011, while Stroman suffered the loss and is now 2-4.
The game might never have gone to the 10th if it weren’t for a unique double play turned by the Hokies in the bottom of the ninth. Dennis O’Grady was on first after an error with no outs when Chris Marconcini singled to right field.
Chad Pinder came up with the ball and threw a laser to Johnny Morales and got O’Grady trying to get to third for one out. Morales then fired across the diamond to Shaban to get Marconcini who had rounded first a little too far. Martir ended the inning with a grounder to short.
After stranding a runner on base in the first two innings, Tech plated two in the top of the third to open the scoring. Morales, who was 4-for-4 on Friday and singled in his last at bat against NC A&T – the game-winning hit –on Tuesday, registered his sixth straight hit to lead off the third, legging out a double.
He quickly moved to third on a failed pick-off attempt and scored one-out later when Tyler Horan doubled to left, marking the 11th straight game Morales has either scored a run or driven one in.
Shaban followed with a single, putting runners on the corners. With two outs, Rash singled through the left side to plate Horan and give the Hokies a 2-0 lead.
However, Duke responded in the bottom of the inning with four of its own. Four straight batters reached base starting with back-to-back singles by David Perkins and Anthony D’Alessandro. Back-to-back hit batsmen plated the first Blue Devil run of the game.
A sacrifice fly and a single and an error allowed three more runs to cross the plate before Tech starter Marc Zecchino got out of the jam with a groundout play at the plate and a fly ball to center.
Tech answered right back in the top of the fifth plating three all with a two-out rally. With Shaban already on first, Tim Smalling drew a walk and Rash followed again with a single through the left side scoring Shaban and Smalling, who came in after an overthrow to the plate. Balisteri drove home Rash with a double to left.
Martir entered the game in relief and threw two perfect innings before another Hokie error allowed another unearned to cross the plate and tie the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the seventh.
The teams will return to the field on Sunday with a 1 p.m. start with the series win on the line.
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