DURHAM, N.C. – Duke used a five-run eighth inning to topple Villanova 5-1 and clinch the three-game series on Saturday afternoon at Jack Coombs field.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth, Duke (6-1) took advantage of two Villanova miscues to plate the tying run on a wild pitch and the go-ahead run on a Wildcat fielding error. After reaching base with his second hit of the game, freshman Chris Marconcini scored the game-winner from second base on the Villanova throwing error to first on a ground ball.
Duke’s five-run inning wiped away a dominant performance by Villanova southpaw Kyle Helisek, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and held the Blue Devils to two hits over his seven shutout frames. Duke, however, took advantage of his departure and scored all five runs off the Villanova bullpen in the eighth.
Marconcini tagged two hits, including a double for his third straight game with an extra-base knock. The 6-5 freshman first baseman has now reached base safely in all seven Duke games while leading the team with 10 RBI. Fellow freshman Jordan Betts extended his hitting streak to four games with an eighth-inning single and a run, and freshman outfielder David Perkins went 2-for-3 with a double, a run and an RBI. Brian Litwin, in his first start of the year, also tagged a two-run triple in the eighth inning for Duke’s third triple in as many games.
Duke starter Eric Pfisterer scattered five hits and one earned run over six complete innings, and the Blue Devil bullpen duo of Ben Grisz and Marcus Stroman held the Wildcats (2-3) to one hit over the final three innings. Pfisterer struck out a season-high five batters and allowed just two hits after the second inning. Grisz then took the mound in the seventh and fired two shutout frames before and Stroman came in and shut down the Wildcats in order with 10 pitches in the ninth.
Grisz (1-0) picked up his first win of the season by only allowing one hit with three strikeouts in his two complete innings of work. The 6-1 junior right-hander has not allowed a run in his past four innings out of the bullpen and has thrown at least two frames in each of his three relief outings.
The Wildcats scored their only run in the second inning on a single back up the middle from Michael Erb. Following a leadoff single by David Koczirka to start the inning, second baseman Dain Hall doubled to put two runners in scoring position, and Erb then ripped an RBI single that scored Koczirka to put Villanova on top 1-0.
Pfisterer rebounded to shut down the Villanova offense over his next four frames before handing the ball to Grisz in the seventh. The Blue Devils then finally broke through in the bottom half of the eighth inning after Jeff Kremer reached base on a leadoff walk and pinch runner Matt Berezo moved to second on a Marcus Stroman sacrifice bunt. Marconcini then got his second hit of the day, an infield single that bounced out of reliever Mike Francisco’s mitt, to move Berezo to third. Berezo then tied the game up when he crossed the plate on a wild pitch that also moved Marconcini into scoring position.
Duke continued the late-game heroics when Marconcini scored the go-ahead run on a throwing error from the Villanova shortstop on a ground ball hit by Will Piwnica-Worms. The Blue Devils would go on to score three more runs on an RBI single by Perkins and the two-run triple by Litwin.
With Duke leading the series 2-0, the Blue Devils will face Villanova in the series finale on Sunday, Feb. 27, at 1 p.m. at Jack Coombs Field. Duke will start reigning ACC Pitcher of the Week Dennis O’Grady (1-0) against Villanova right-hander Matt Lengel (0-0).