CARY, N.C. - Michael Zeblo drove in three RBI and starter Brian Russell held Duke to one run to lead Davidson past Duke 4-2 on Tuesday evening at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
Zeblo gave Russell an early lead with a two-run double in the second inning and then legged out a two-out infield single in the top of the ninth to give his bullpen a two-run cushion. Zeblo also converted all nine of his defensive chances and turned two of Davidson's four double plays.
Russell (3-1) scattered four hits and two walks over his six innings before relievers Andy Bass and Mike Frongello recorded the final nine outs of the game. Bass threw 1.1 innings in relief of Russell to earn a hold before Frongello got the final five outs to lock up his first save of the season.
Davidson's pitching trio outdueled Duke sophomore left-hander Eric Pfisterer (2-4), who pitched his first career complete game but took the hard-luck loss. Pfisterer surrendered four runs on 10 hits, but allowed just one run - on Zeblo's infield single with two outs in the ninth - over his final seven innings. Pfisterer struck out seven batters while walking just two.
Duke got three hits from leadoff batter Ryan McCurdy, but sent him across the plate just one time. Lemmerman had both of Duke's RBI with an RBI double in the third inning and a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth. The Blue Devils did not strike out once in the game, Davidson used the four double plays to squash numerous Duke rallies.
With the loss, Duke ends a 13-game non-conference winning streak that dated back to a 10-5 loss to No. 22 Georgia on Feb. 21.
Davidson staked Russell to an early lead by stringing together three straight hits in the top of the second inning on the way to a 3-0 lead. A one-out walk to Will General started the rally, which included a pair of singles from Tommy Piacenza and Seth Freeman and a two-run double from Zeblo. Pfisterer would eventually settle down, however, and retired the next two batters to open a streak in which he retired seven of his next eight hitters.
The Blue Devils took back one of those runs in the bottom of the third on a two-out RBI double from Lemmerman to cut the deficit to 3-1. Lemmerman followed a two-out, two-strike single from McCurdy with his eighth double of the season, which he pulled just fair down the left field line.
Despite a combined four runs in the first three innings, the game turned into a pitcher's duel for over the next four frames. Pfisterer and Russell combined to allow just three hits during that scoreless span as Russell continued to preserve Davidson's 3-1 lead. Defense was key for Davidson during that span as the Wildcats turned their second and third double plays of the game to kill two potential Duke rallies.
Duke also turned a double play in the fifth as Pfisterer faced just one over the minimum from the fourth through seventh innings. He picked up three strikeouts during that span and needed just six pitches to get through the seventh inning.
Russell stayed on to pitch the seventh as well, but was pulled after hitting Will Piwnica-Worms with a 1-2 changeup. Bass then took the mound and used just one pitch to induce Davidson's fourth double play of the game.
Duke got to Bass in the bottom of the eighth to cut the deficit to 3-2 and break up a four-inning scoreless drought. The Blue Devils scored their first run since the third inning on a sacrifice fly ball from Lemmerman that plated Marcus Stroman, who led off the inning with a single. Duke would then put two men on base with two outs, but Frongello, who entered the game to face Lemmerman with men at the corners, got out of the jam with the 3-2 lead still intact.
Michael Zeblo beat out a two-out infield single in the top of the ninth to increase that lead to 4-2 which gave Frongello enough breathing room to close out the ninth. Duke mounted a late rally with a single from Dennis O'Grady and another two-out knock from Stroman, but had the comeback squashed when Frongello induced a ground ball to end the game.
Duke continues its homestand this Wednesday, April 14, with a 6 p.m. meeting versus UNC Greensboro at the USA Baseball National Training Complex. Neither Duke nor UNC Greensboro has announced a starter for the game. Duke will then return to the USA Baseball Complex for a three-game ACC series versus No. 6 Florida State on April 16-18.