Behind by one run with four outs left, the Miami Hurricanes needed scoring fast.
The bases were loaded with two outs, and sophomore shortstop Dominic Pitelli launched a grand slam to right field. Miami never looked back in its series opener, defeating Duke 4-1 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park for its sixth straight win Friday.
“It might have been the most clutch hit I’ve ever had,” Pitelli said. “It’s a great moment. We weren’t having the greatest game offensively. It was a close game the whole time, I had made an error the inning before, but it felt great to come up clutch for the team.”
Two outs were on the board in the eighth inning for the Hurricanes, who didn’t panic despite stranding the tying run three times beforehand.
A pair of two-out singles and a walk from sophomore outfielder Jacob Burke set up Pitelli’s fourth home run of the season. The eighth inning followed two hits in the seventh inning in which Pitelli, the tying run, was caught stealing.
“Late in the games, we’ve been pretty good scoring runs, getting big runs and getting big hits,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said. “I’m happy with the guys fighting and fighting until the last out. This was a team effort.”
Miami’s eighth-inning surge moved the 17th-ranked Hurricanes (19-6, 8-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) to 2-6 when trailing opponents after the seventh inning. None of the six runners in scoring position scored for the Blue Devils (12-14, 3-7 ACC).
Duke led by the bottom of the first inning. Third baseman Graham Pauley hit a solo home run off sophomore left-handed starter Carson Palmquist.
Behind Palmquist, Miami held Duke to three hits across the first six innings. Duke starter Marcus Johnson, who led the Blue Devils with five wins and seven saves in 30 appearances last year, countered with a four-hit shutout performance in 6 1/3 innings.
“I just kept fighting and battling against every hitter,” Palmquist said. “I didn’t have my best stuff early, but I know what happened last year against them and I wasn’t going to allow it to happen again. It fired me up and I wanted to go out there and help my team any way possible.”
But unlike the Blue Devils, the Hurricanes’ pitching didn’t fade.
A strikeout from freshman Rafe Schlesinger (1-0) closed out the seventh for Miami, after sophomore Alex McFarlane retired the frame’s first two batters. Nobody in Duke’s lineup managed more than one hit.
Sophomore right-handed reliever Andrew Walters earned his seventh save of the season, retiring two of three batters faced on strikeouts. Blue Devils right-hander Jimmy Loper (2-1) was tacked with the loss, surrendering Pitelli’s go-ahead home run.
Miami returns to the diamond for Game 2 Saturday, with freshman Karson Ligon expected to start. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.