April 18, 2010

Courtesy of Duke

CARY, N.C. - Brian Litwin went 3-for-5 and drove in the go-ahead run with a two-run double in the seventh inning to lead Duke to a 10-6 win over No. 6 Florida State on Saturday afternoon at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.

Litwin drove in three RBI and crossed the plate three times as Duke (21-15, 6-11 ACC) tied the series at one game apiece. The sophomore outfielder came to the plate with Duke trailing 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh and ripped the first pitch he saw to the right field warning track for a two-run double that put the Blue Devils on top for the remainder of the game.

Two-way freshman Marcus Stroman (4-1) shut out Florida State (27-9, 11-6 ACC) for the final three innings after take the mound from second base in the seventh. Stroman, who also singled in his last three at bats, took the mound with Duke trailing 6-5 and held the Seminoles to just one hit for the rest of the game.

The Blue Devils scored all 10 of their runs in the final four innings with a pair of four-run outbursts in the sixth and seventh. Duke pounded five hits in the sixth and six more in the bottom of the seventh with the bulk of that production coming from the bottom half of the order. Five-hitter Jeremy Gould went 4-for-5 while Stroman and Litwin both went 3-for-5 and freshman Eric Brady finished 2-for-4 with a two-run double.

Duke trailed by as much as 4-0 before senior Ryan McCurdy drove the first of his two RBI with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth. Florida State took that run back almost immediately, however, with consecutive doubles in the top of the sixth from Jayce Boyd and Stuart Tapley.

Trailing 5-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth, however, cleanup hitter Will Currier opened a four-run rally with a leadoff double that was the first of four consecutive hits for the Blue Devils. Gould, Stroman and Litwin then followed with three straight singles before senior pitcher Jonathan Foreman stepped into the box and tagged another base hit into right field. Duke capped the four-run rally with a game-tying sacrifice fly from McCurdy that knotted the score at 5-5.

Florida State tagged Duke reliever Michael Ness for the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh before the Blue Devils brought in Stroman with two men on and no outs. Stroman did not flinch in the pressure situation, and immediately rolled a double play ground ball to Brady, who picked it up and stepped on third before firing a strike to first base to complete the turn. Stroman then ended the threat with another ground ball to keep the deficit at 6-5.

Florida State reliever Tyler Everett could not stop Duke's offense, however, and surrendered four more runs in a six-hit inning that put the Blue Devils on top 9-6. Currier started the rally once again with a one-out walk, moved to third on consecutive singles from Gould and Stroman and then scored on Litwin's two-run double to right field. With the bases loaded and one out, Litwin mashed the first pitch he saw well over the head of Seminole right fielder James Ramsey to send in the tying and go-ahead runs before Brady came through with another two-run knock that increased the lead to three.

Duke would add one more run in the bottom of the eighth on a passed ball and throwing error from Florida State catcher Rafael Lopez before Stroman shut down the Seminoles in order in the ninth. Stroman struck out Ramsey looking to end the game.

With the series tied at one game apiece, Duke and Florida State will battle for the series on Sunday, April 18, in the finale at 1 p.m. at the USA Baseball National Training Complex. Duke will start freshman right-hander Chase Bebout (4-0, 3.21 ERA) opposite Florida State southpaw John Gast (4-2, 6.57 ERA).