CARY, N.C. - Jake Lemmerman mashed his second career grand slam and Ben Grisz threw four scoreless innings out of the bullpen to lead Duke to a 10-3 win over Quinnipiac Monday afternoon at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
Lemmerman drove in all four of his RBI with one swing of the bat in the eighth inning to break open what was previously a three-run ballgame. The junior shortstop finished 2-for-4 and reached base safely three times as Duke won its seventh straight game and its first at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
Following a five-inning start from freshman Devin Burke (1-1), who notched his first career win after scattering three runs, Grisz took over and held the Bobcats (0-4) to four hits over four scoreless innings. Grisz struck out three batters, did not issue a walk and extended his scoreless streak to nine consecutive innings.
Duke's batters did not strike out once in 33 at bats. Despite reaching base a combined 17 times, Duke stranded just six base runners and went 5-for-12 (.417) with runners in scoring position. Senior outfielder Gabriel Saade also crushed a three-run triple in the second inning, while catcher Ryan McCurdy was hit by three pitches and recorded a hit in his four trips to the plate. McCurdy, whose 56 times hit by a pitch ranks first all-time at Duke, has been plunked nine times in seven game this season.
The Blue Devils (8-3) also went without an error for the fourth straight game to raise their fielding percentage to .981. Duke walked just one batter in the game and did not allow a single extra-base hit.
Duke scored five runs off of Quinnipiac starter Anthony Cinelli (0-1) and five more off reliever Spencer Kane. All five runs against Kane were unearned as part of the five-run eighth inning. Quinnipiac first baseman Gabe Guerino went 4-for-4, but did not drive in a run and scored just once.
Burke got into some trouble early in the second inning when Quinnipiac loaded the bases with no outs, but buckled down to sit down three straight hitters. Burke got out of the jam by allowing just one run, which came on a sacrifice fly from Buckley. From there, Burke blew a two-seam fastball past the next Bobcat batter for strike three and then induced an inning-ending ground ball to escape the jam.
The Blue Devils returned the favor and loaded the bases in the bottom the second to open a four-run rally that put them on top 4-1. Saade started the scoring with a bases-loaded triple to the right field gap just before McCurdy followed with a bloop double to shallow center field. Quinnipiac left fielder Ben Farina bailed his team out of the jam, however, by making a diving catch on a line drive hit by Eric Brady and getting it back to second base in time to double off McCurdy.
Burke retired the side in order in the third, striking out two, but allowed Quinnipiac to take back two runs in the top of the fourth to cut Duke's lead to 4-3. Joe Poletsky and Guerino started the rally for Quinnipiac with consecutive leadoff singles and then scored on a sacrifice fly from Chris Migani and a base hit from Ryan Ullrich. The Bobcats eventually pushed the tying run to third, but he was left stranded there when Burke forced a flyout to Mike Carroll in left field to end the threat.
Burke sat down the side in order again in the fifth before Grisz took over in the sixth. Following a scoreless top of the sixth from Grisz, the Blue Devils took advantage of a two-out Quinnipiac error to score another run and go ahead 5-3. Grisz then came back out and struck out the side in the sixth for his seventh consecutive scoreless inning. Grisz would stay in to extend that streak to eight after working through the top of the eighth without allowing a run.
While Grisz protected a slim lead in his first three innings, his offense gave him some breathing room after the eighth inning when Lemmerman capped a five-run rally with a two-out grand slam. The four-run bomb over the left field wall was Lemmerman's second career grand slam, his second homer of the season and put Duke on top 10-3. All five runs in the inning were unearned, as Quinnipiac gave Duke an extra out when they dropped a fly ball on the outfield.
Grisz stayed on in the ninth inning to end the game and pick up his first career save. The 6-1, 220 pound pound right-hander struck out three batters and has now fanned 11 hitters in 12.0 innings this season. He has walked just one during that span while surrendering just one extra-base hit.
Duke and Quinnipiac will complete their two-game series this Tuesday, March 9, at 3 p.m. at the USA Baseball National Training Complex. Duke will throw right-handed freshman Chase Bebout (0-0, 9.00 ERA) while Quinnipiac will counter with right-hander Kyle Birdsall (0-0, 0.00 ERA).