Coming into the weekend’s series against Boston College softball, a major Achilles’ heel of No. 13 Duke was the Blue Devils’ fielding. Statistically the worst defensive team in the ACC, Duke led the conference with 56 errors.
During Friday’s series opener, however, BC was the more defensively challenged squad, which proved too much for it to overcome.
The Eagles (19–20, 2–11 Atlantic Coast) committed five errors—each one equally crucial—and fell to Duke (34–8, 11–5) by a score of 6–4, dropping the first of a three-game set at Harrington Athletics Village. BC battled back from a 3–0 deficit but relinquished a late 4–3 lead to hand the Blue Devils their 34th victory of the season. Five of Duke’s six runs were unearned.
“I thought that we gave them the game,” BC head coach Amy Kvilhaug said. “We gave them the win.”
The Blue Devils got on the board in the first inning when D’Auna Jennings came around to score on a Gisele Tapia sacrifice fly after a leadoff walk. Duke built on this lead in the third inning by capitalizing on a Maddy Carpe error that allowed a runner to come home on a fielder’s choice. The Blue Devils’ next batter, Kairi Rodriguez, drove in another run with a sacrifice fly to left field to make it 3–0.
“They’re pretty potent offensively,” Kvilhaug said of the Blue Devils. “They’re hitting like .300, maybe .310 as a team.”
Jala Wright silenced the Eagles through the first three innings, holding BC to just two baserunners and zero hits. The junior was efficient in the circle and retired seven in a row heading into the fourth inning.
Wright’s dominance, however, ended in the bottom half of the fourth inning. Abigail Knight worked a leadoff walk, and Nicole Giery shot a ball through the right side to give the Eagles two runners on base with nobody out. After a Kamryn Warman strikeout, Zoe Hines unloaded on a pitch, launching it over the left field fence to even the game at 3–3. The home run marked Hines’ second of the season.
“For the most part, we’re taking more of a patient approach at the plate—making pitchers work, have to throw pitches,” Kvilhaug said of the Eagles’ at-bats. “We are looking and hunting for specific pitches, and I thought our hitters did a great job of sticking to the plan.”
Abby Dunning, who went the distance for BC, worked through a relatively quick top half of the fifth inning, and the Eagles went back to work at the plate. With two outs and two runners in scoring position, Carpe slapped a single through the right side to give BC at 4–3 lead, its first of the game. Meghan Schouten scored on the base hit, but Hines was thrown out at the plate.
BC’s sloppy defense reared its ugly head in the sixth inning, however, and Duke knotted the score at four apiece. A Giery error to lead off the inning allowed Francesca Frelick to reach second base, and pinch runner Kelsey Zampa came around to score when Knight made an errant throw trying to retire the next batter.
The Blue Devils delivered the final blow in the top of the seventh inning when Ana Gold smashed a two-run moonshot over the left field fence to make it 6–4. Gold’s 16th home run of the season drove in Tapia, who had led off the frame by reaching on another Giery error.
BC couldn’t take advantage of a Hannah Slike leadoff single in the bottom half of the seventh, and it fell by two runs.
“We punched back when we needed to,” Kvilhaug said. “I just think our defense kind of handed them runs. That was really the name of the game.”