CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Sophomore Jimmy Herron and graduate student Jalen Phillips combined for seven hits and the Blue Devil bullpen shut out the Tar Heels the final five frames in an 8-4 Duke victory over No. 3 North Carolina Thursday evening at Boshamer Stadium.
Herron went 4-for-6 with a double and an RBI while Phillips was 3-for-4 with a double, a run and an RBI. Herron and Phillips combined for seven of Duke's 11 hits in the contest.
Three veteran left-handers – Kevin Lewallyn, Chris McGrath and Nick Hendrix – combined to throw 5.2 scoreless innings to allow the offense to turn 4-2 deficit into an 8-4 victory. The Tar Heels totaled three hits for the game and just one after the fourth inning.
“We've all been hard on our bullpen at times this year,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “Coming out of the exam break, our bullpen has been outstanding. They were exceptional tonight and we played great defense behind them.”
With two outs in the second, four straight Blue Devils reached base, resulting in a two-out rally. Phillips ignited the spurt with a double to the right center gap. After Chris Proctor walked, Herron lined an RBI double to left center, plating the game's opening run. Sophomore Zack Kone then laid down a bunt that rolled down the line and grazed third base to score Proctor.
Left-hander Mitch Stallings retired the first nine Tar Heels he faced before North Carolina broke through in the fourth. Center fielder Bryan Miller collected UNC's first hit before back-to-back walks loaded the bases. Kyle Datres and Brandon Riley both notched RBI to tie the score, 2-2. Two more walks gave UNC the lead and ended Stallings' outing. Lewallyn (1-0) then came on to get the final two outs and limit the deficit to a 4-2 margin.
Two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases with no one out in the top of the fifth. All three runners eventually crossed home, two via a Max Miller double down the line and one on a wild pitch to help Duke regain the lead, 5-4.
“We're getting good at having answers,” Pollard said. “That's just the sign of the growth of this team.”
Lewallyn retired all eight batters he faced in a tremendous outing out of the pen. Junior Chris McGrath pitched around leadoff walk in the seventh and Duke headed to the final two frames with a 6-4 lead.
“Kevin did a terrific job of coming in and getting us off the field in the fourth,” Pollard added. “Two really clean innings behind it.”
The Blue Devils padded their advantage in a two-run ninth. Junior Jack Labosky's leadoff single ultimately turned into a run after Kennie Taylor was hit by a pitch, Miller laid down a sacrifice bunt and North Carolina registered a passed ball. Phillips' two-out RBI base hit gave Duke an 8-4 cushion.
Graduate student Nick Hendrix earned the six-out save. Hendrix permitted a long eighth-inning infield single, struck out two and did not walk a batter.
After all Nick's done for this program and how well he's thrown of late, I didn't think I could take him out of the ballgame right there,” Pollard said. “It was really awesome for me to watch him finish that thing off in the ninth.”
In addition, Thursday's win clinched Duke's berth to the 2017 ACC Tournament.
Duke and North Carolina take the field for game 2 of the series Friday, May 19 at 6:30 p.m., on ACC Network Extra.