Wild finish, with replay review reversal, sends Duke softball to ACC tourney title game

Duke freshman Amiah Burgess slid, arms outstretched, into home plate just under the Clemson tag. The umpire called her out. Burgess — and the Duke dugout — immediately put her hands over her ears, signaling for an official review.

One minute passed. Call overturned. The Blue Devils survived and advanced to the ACC softball tournament championship game with a 4-3 semifinal win over Clemson in 10 innings Friday.

“We have this thing called ‘two-out run.’ It’s two outs, ball’s hit, you’ve got to score. We really, really needed to score,” Burgess said. “Frankie (Frelick) hit that ball. I knew it was going to be tough. I knew it was going to be some kind of missed play or a dive, so I had to go. I didn’t even see where the ball went. I was just running, and I literally threw my body at home.”

Burgess’ all-out running, scoring from second on Frelick’s bouncing infield hit up the middle, gave No. 1 seed Duke (46-6) its second extra-inning ACC Tournament game in as many days.

Burgess and Frelick deserve plenty of attention for finishing the game, but they’re not the only ones getting credit. It took everyone to come away with the victory.

“We really believe that anybody up and down the lineup can get the job done,” Duke head coach Marissa Young said. “We just have that belief that if it’s not one hitter, they’re going to pass the bat, and the next gets it done.”

At the plate, five different players recorded a hit. Center fielder D’Auna Jennings and Frelick highlighted the efforts. Jennings started 3 of 3 from the plate and finished 3 of 4 with a run scored. Frelick, meanwhile, entered the game in the bottom of the fourth. She contributed two timely hits, including the game winner.

Duke had plenty of opportunities to score throughout the game, but Clemson made the Blue Devils work for every positive play. In fact, the team left nine base runners stranded on its 11 hits.

Duke, however, maintained its “when not if” mentality through the entire game. It never panicked, even after Tigers center fielder McKenzie Clark’s leaping grab over the wall robbed Aminah Vega of a walkoff home run in the ninth.

Young called her squad “relentless.”

“I knew we were going to come out with a win,” Frelick said. “We had that confidence and that mentality, so I knew it was gonna happen. If it wasn’t me, it’s gonna be the person behind me.”

The Tigers (34-17) took a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Maddie Moore launched a home run to left center field, forcing Duke to work from behind.

After her team’s 2-0 quarterfinal win over Boston College on Thursday, Duke star pitcher Jala Wright said she was nervous entering the game. That wasn’t the case for Friday’s starting pitcher, Cassidy Curd.

Young said the home run came on a missed location, and the Tigers “made her pay.”

The Blue Devils, however, ultimately found success on the opposite side.

Curd threw 7 1/3 innings and had four strikeouts. She allowed three runs. Lillie Walker entered the game in relief. She pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out three.

Right fielder Claire Davidson and Burgess, in left, both contributed diving plays to end innings. Ana Gold recorded an out when she caught Clemson’s Kennedy Ariail trying to steal third base.

Duke ultimately allowed just five hits, sitting Clemson batters down in order four times, and forced the Tigers to leave runners on base three times.

The win puts the Blue Devils in the ACC title game for the third time, where it seeks its first championship since 2021.

“We want this more than anything. I walked into the first day of lift and they were like, ‘We’re winning the ACC Championship and we’re going to the World Series.’ That’s what we’re gonna do,” Burgess said.

“It’s been our goal all year, and I don’t see any reason why we don’t take advantage of what we’ve worked for all year.”