Wright State baseball falls to Duke in NCAA Regionals

Wright State's baseball team lost to Duke on Saturday in the NCAA Regional. Wright State Athletics/Danny Sikkenga
Wright State's baseball team lost to Duke on Saturday in the NCAA Regional. Wright State Athletics/Danny Sikkenga

Wright State hit and scored better than any team in the country this season. But put two teams in Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., and it turns into home run derby.

The Raiders, playing in the NCAA regionals for the ninth time, hit their share of home runs in two games over the weekend – six – but their opponents combined for 10. On Friday night, the difference was a walk-off grand slam by Drew Gilbert to lift No. 3 overall seed Tennessee to a 9-8 victory.

Needing a win to stay alive in the double-elimination four-team regional, Wright State couldn’t keep Duke in the park Saturday. The Blue Devils hit six homers, including three by RJ Schreck, and rolled past the Raiders 14-6.

“It’s definitely a gut punch after last night,” said Wright State senior catcher Konner Piotto. “We played our butts off and what a game that was. We were ready to go.”

The game started like the back-and-forth Tennessee game in which Quincy Hamilton gave the Raiders a late lead with a three-run homer. Schreck homered for a 2-0 Duke lead in the first inning. The Raiders (35-13) rallied to tie before Schreck hit his second two-run homer in the third for a 4-2 lead. After another Duke 2-run homer, the Raiders answered on Tyler Black’s solo homer, his third of the weekend.

Three more Duke (33-21) homers, including Schreck’s third, led to a six-run fifth to put Duke up 13-4.

“It’s definitely a little bit frustrating,” Piotto said. “At our field it’s definitely a graveyard. We barrel balls in batting practice and our best bullets are bouncing 20 feet in front of the warning track. And you get here and balls off the end of the bat are hitting the scoreboard.”

Wright State starter Bradley Brehmer allowed six runs in three innings. Then the Raiders made four errors to lead to six unearned runs off relievers over the next couple innings.

“We didn’t play our brand of baseball – a little sloppy defensively – and we can pitch it much better than that,” Wright State coach Alex Sogard said. “But I give credit to Duke because they took advantage of our mistakes.”

Piotto said the homer-inducing park didn’t change pitching strategies for Brehmer, Friday night starter Jake Schrand or any of the relievers.

“It’s still our best stuff against their guys,” Piotto said. “At the end of the day it didn’t work out.”

Down 13-4 the Raiders tried to rally in the bottom of the sixth, but Schreck robbed Black of a grand slam. All they got out of it was a sacrifice fly to trail 13-5. Schreck robbed another homer later in the game.

“We had a little rally going and the guy made a heck of a play,” Sogard said. “Tip your cap to him. He made two incredible plays out there. That’s tough when it doesn’t go your way on a play like that. You need the ball to bounce your way on some of those when you get down that much early.”

The Raiders led the nation in scoring at 10.6 runs a game and in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. They dominated the Horizon League all-league team and beat Milwaukee 21-3 in the league tournament final. Hamilton was named a first-team all-American by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.

“No one thought this was going to be the end result,” Piotto said. “No one ever shows up to the ballpark expecting a game like that.”

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