Grand slams lift Duke baseball to ACC championship as Blue Devils rout Florida State

Duke rode its strong bats to what turned out to be a Sunday drive to another ACC baseball championship.

Ben Miller’s grand slam in the fourth inning, followed by another from Devin Obee in the sixth inning, propelled the Blue Devils to a 16-4 win over Florida State in the ACC tournament final at Truist Field.

The win gives Duke its second ACC tournament championship in the past four years, after it won the tournament for the first time in 2021. Counting regular-season championships won in 1956, 1957 and 1961, the Blue Devils now own five ACC titles.

“I‘m exceptionally proud of our team,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said. “I think we’ve shown incredible resilience. We’ve had a great year, but we had to battle the injury bug here a little bit down the stretch. Our guys have just been tough. They’ve been together and all of that was on display today and we played a really complete game. We played a really really complete tournament just so proud to be a part of this program.”

Duke’s latest league title came in emphatic fashion as the No. 6 seed Blue Devils (39-18) scored nine consecutive runs after No. 5 seed Florida State (42-15) took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Duke scored five runs in the top of the second to take the lead for good

In the fourth inning, Miller’s blast over the picnic pavilion beyond the left field wall provided a four-run rally to give the Blue Devils a 9-2 lead.

Though he entered the game batting .371 with 13 home runs, Miller had been slumping of late. So the grand slam restored his confidence.

“Honestly just a sigh of relief,” Miller said. “I mean, how often do you come up with bases loaded less than two outs and then it just so happens to be the championship game when you aren’t feeling your best at the plate? So honestly, really relieved that I got a barrel there and it feels great.”

Duke posted another five-run inning in the sixth, powered by Obee’s 406-foot home run, also deep to left field, to take a 14-4 lead. Obee was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Five Duke pitchers handled the nine innings for the Blue Devils on Sunday with James Tallon covering the first three innings in his first college start. Reliever Charlie Beilenson, named to the all-tournament team, pitched a perfect ninth inning to set off Duke’s celebration.

Now the Blue Devils await Monday’s NCAA tournament pairings announcement to learn where it will start its quest for the program’s first College World Series appearance since 1961. But lost in the super regional round one win shy of trip to Omaha last year.

However, Pollard did his best to help the team focus on winning the ACC championship before thinking about the NCAAs. Prior to the team traveling to Charlotte, he showed the players his ACC title ring from 2021, telling them it was “the best baseball experience” of his career.

After the players passed the ring around, with everyone touching it, the Blue Devils were focused.

“I want you to have that experience too,” Pollard said he told the players. “I want you to be able to go out there and celebrate bring a trophy back to your university. Guys embraced that we were in the moment all week. We never once talked about the NCAA tournament. It was about this experience here and having the chance to compete for a championship.”