LYNCHBURG, Va. - Eric Pfisterer held Liberty to three hits over eight innings to lead Duke to a 4-1 win over the Flames on Tuesday evening at Worthington Stadium.
Pfisterer (3-4) struck out seven and was just three outs away from completing his second straight complete game. The 6-2, 220-pound left-hander gave up his only run on a two-out wild pitch in the fifth inning and bounced back to shut out the Flames over his final three frames. Senior Jonathan Foreman took over in the ninth with a 4-1 lead to notch his second career save.
Pfisterer held Liberty's top four hitters to a combined 1-for-13. That quartet entered the game hitting a combined .351, but managed just one hit and four strikeouts against Pfisterer.
Pfisterer got an early 2-0 lead in the top of the second thanks to a pair of two-out singles from Eric Brady and Dennis O'Grady. Both Brady and O'Grady finished 2-for-4 with one RBI and one run apiece.
The blue Devils tagged Liberty starter Dustin Umberger (0-2) for six hits and one earned run to hand him the loss. Reliever Josh Richardson also surrendered two runs in 2.2 innings before Liberty left-hander Tim Dudley entered the game and threw a scoreless ninth.
Pfisterer struck out four of the first seven batters he faced as part of two scoreless innings to open the game. His offense provided him with a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning thanks to a pair of consecutive two-out singles from Brady and O'Grady and a pair of Liberty errors on a pickoff attempt and a stolen base.
Pfisterer recorded 11 outs before giving up his first hit, giving up that streak with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. Liberty shortstop Matt Williams came to the plate with a runner on first and ripped a line drive to the right side that second baseman Marcus Stroman lunged for, but could not hold on to as it rolled into right field. The single left runners at the corners with two outs, but Pfisterer kept Duke's 2-0 lead intact by inducing a flyout to right field.
Control issues plagued Pfisterer in the bottom of the fifth and led to Liberty's first run of the game. Two hit batters and a two-out single from Curran Redal loaded the bases for the Flames, who then plated their only run on a wild pitch. Pfisterer would have kept the shutout intact if not for the wild pitch, as he followed that by inducing a foulout from three-hitter Tyler Bream.
Leading 2-1, Duke had a chance to blow the game open after loading the bases with one out, but had the rally spoiled by Strickland. Strickland came into the game and induced a ground ball back to himself which he promptly threw back to the plate for the force out. From there, he got Brady to hit a hard fly ball right to left fielder Doug Bream for the final out, stranding all three runners in the process.
The Blue Devils took advantage of their next opportunity, however, and went ahead 3-1 on an RBI single by Gould. Gould's base hit was Duke's second of the inning, as O'Grady got the rally started with a leadoff single into left field.
Pfisterer held the Flames scoreless over his next three innings, taking a 4-1 lead into the ninth. Brady gave him one more run with an RBI single in the top of the seventh before Foreman took over on the mound in the ninth. Foreman worked around two base hits to close out the game and secure Duke's 16th non-conference win of the year.
Duke will resume ACC play this weekend with a three-game series against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Blue Devils will play at 6 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday, April 23-24, and at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 25.