Needing one win Sunday to advance to an NCAA Super Regional for the first time in school history, the Duke softball team suffered a hiccup in Game 1 against Georgia.
Game 2 didn’t start off so well, either, but the No. 12-seeded Blue Devils (44-9) used a magical fifth inning in the deciding game to vault past the Bulldogs, earning a 13-5 win and a trip to California to face perennial power UCLA (43-18), the No. 5 seed.
“I’m really excited for what we accomplished today as a program, as a team,” Duke head coach Marissa Young said. “Really proud of our players and the way that they fought today.”
The Blue Devils were playing in back-to-back regional rounds for the first time in program history. By comparison, the Bulldogs have participated in the regional round 10 times.
Duke, which started fielding a softball team in 2017, was 0-2 all-time against Georgia.
The Bulldogs, who eliminated Duke from the NCAA tournament last season, won Sunday’s first game, 5-3, handing Duke its first loss of the regional round. The Blue Devils took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third when Rachel Crabtree laid down a bunt to score Jameson Kavel. The Bulldogs took control in the bottom of the third, scoring two runs and never surrendering the lead. Duke loaded the bases after cutting in the top of the fifth, but couldn’t capitalize, leaving the three runners stranded.
The Bulldogs jumped on Duke early in Game 2, also, going up 5-1 heading into the third inning. The Blue Devils got hot, though, tying the game in the bottom half of the inning. In the fifth, Duke exploded for six runs to take over the game.
“We knew the game was on the line and we didn’t want this to be our last game,” Blue Devils’ senior Kristina Foreman said. “It was already written, we just had to see it through. Just one run at a time, one hit at time, one pitch at a time. We were just doing our best to take some hits off and nip it in the bud.”
Young, a California native, will lead her Blue Devils west next week to face the Bruins as they reach another program milestone.
“It means a lot being at the helm,” Young said. “This is what I wanted for the program from day one is to be playing at the Women’s College World Series. I want it most for this senior group because they’ve been the ones here laying the foundation, putting in the work. I want them to experience all of the enjoyment of playing at the highest level.”