DURHAM, N.C. - Sophomore Will Piwnica-Worms drove in four runs and scored three times to lead Duke to an 11-4 win over Fordham in game two of the series Saturday afternoon at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Piwnica-Worms drove in three of his RBI with a bases-loaded triple in the second inning, which was his second three-bagger of the season. The 6-2, 200 pound center fielder reached base four times in five plate appearances while touching the plate three times.
Hitting fifth in the batting order, Piwnica-Worms was one of five Blue Devils with multiple runs. Duke's top five hitters scored at least twice and combined for all 11 of Duke's runs. Duke senior designated hitter Will Currier and outfielder Gabriel Saade combined for five RBI and five hits with Currier finishing 2-for-5 with a double and Saade finishing 3-for-4.
Duke junior Dennis O'Grady came out of the bullpen to throw three no-hit innings in relief of starter Eric Pfisterer (1-1). Following five innings from Pfisterer in which he scattered four runs, O'Grady entered the game and sat down nine of the 10 hitters he faced. The only base runner he allowed was on a fielding error.
Duke's pitchers combined for eight strikeouts and just one walk in the game. Pfisterer struck out four and walked one, while O'Grady fanned three and senior left-hander Christopher Manno struck out one. In a rare relief appearance, Manno retired all three batters he faced and struck out the last one to end the game.
Fordham's pitching staff was plagued by control issues and dished out seven walks as a group. They also hit six Blue Devils, including Duke senior Ryan McCurdy twice. McCurdy, who holds Duke's all-time hit by pitch record with 49 in his four-year career, boasts a .500 on base percentage in his first two games.
Duke (3-3) chased Fordham starter Brian Pendergast (0-1) in the second inning after tagging him for eight earned runs. Pendergast surrendered just three hits, but walked five and hit two in 1.2 innings of work.
Fordham cleanup hitter Chris Walker provided the bulk of the Rams' offense with two doubles, two runs and an RBI. The Rams managed nine hits, but had just six runners in scoring position all game.
Fordham's offense got going early, however, scoring twice in the first inning. The Rams pounded three hits in the opening frame, including an RBI double from Walker and an RBI single from three-hitter P.J. Como. Pfisterer eventually found his rhythm, however, and struck out the last two batters he faced to give him three punchouts for the inning.
Duke responded quickly in the bottom half of the first, however, and took advantage of four walks to score four runs on the way to a 4-2 lead. Duke's 1-2-3 combination of leadoff man Eric Brady, McCurdy and Jake Lemmerman got the rally started with three straight walks to start the inning and then forced in Duke's first run with another free pass to Piwnica-Worms. Currier than came through with a bases-loaded single that scored two just before Saade sent in the fourth run with another base knock into right-center field.
Control issues continued to plague Pendergast in the bottom of the second, and Duke took advantage once again with consecutive extra-base hits to go ahead 8-2. Both extra-base knocks came with two outs, starting with Piwnica-Worms' bases-loaded triple and continuing with Currier's ensuing double off the left field wall. Pendergast helped Duke start the rally by hitting Brady and McCurdy in consecutive at bats before loading the bases with a two-out walk to Gould. Piwnica-Worms then ripped his triple down the right field line to clear the bases and prompt a pitching change from Fordham. Right-hander Jordan Grangard then took the mound, but Currier quickly welcomed him to the game with a first-pitch double that banged off the inset video board in the Blue Monster in left field and plated Piwnica-Worms for Duke's fourth and final run of the inning.
Pfisterer got into a jam in the top of the third, but got some help from his shortstop to escape a bases-loaded jam unharmed. With the bases loaded and no outs, Como ripped a line drive right at Lemmerman. Lemmerman was screened by Fordham base runner Mike Mobbs' secondary lead, but snagged the line drive anyway and beat Mobbs back to the bag to complete the double play. The play cut down Fordham's rally just before Pfisterer struck out Ryan McCrann to strand the other two runners.
Pfisterer kept Fordham scoreless from the second through fourth inning, but gave way to a two-out rally in the top of the fifth that cut the lead to 8-4. After inducing two straight popups from the top of Fordham's lineup, Pfisterer surrendered consecutive doubles from Walker and Como gave Fordham its first run. McCrann then came through with an RBI single to left field before Pfisterer could get out of the inning.
The fifth inning would be the last for Pfisterer, who handed the ball to O'Grady in the top of the sixth. The move paid off as O'Grady retired six of the next seven hitters he faced with one batter reaching on an error. O'Grady would strike out two hitters in his first two innings, including two in the top of the seventh, while retiring six straight.
Duke added three insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh, thanks to four free passes from Fordham pitchers James Stone and Ryan DeMartino. Stone started the inning and put the first two men on base before DeMartino took the mound and hit the first hitter he faced to load the bases. Duke would send each of those three in on an RBI fielder's choice, another hit batter and a sacrifice fly ball from sophomore Ben Grisz, who drove in his first career RBI with the flyout.
O'Grady kept cruising in the eighth and retired three more hitters to bring his streak to nine straight outs. O'Grady fired just 33 pitches in his three innings, 22 of which were strikes.
The eighth inning would be the last for O'Grady, who rattled off three straight no-hit innings out of the bullpen. Manno took over in the top of the ninth and locked up the win by retiring all three batters he faced. Manno fired 13 pitches, including nine strikes, in his first pitching appearance of the season.
With Duke leading the series 2-0, the Blue Devils will have a shot at a three-game sweep in the finale on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 1 p.m. Senior Jonathan Foreman will start the finale for the Blue Devils after going five innings in a 9-5 win over No. 22 Georgia in his season debut last weekend. Fordham will counter with right-hander John Flanagan.