DURHAM, N.C. – Freshman Angelo LaBruna drove in a career-high six RBI to lead Duke to a 9-6 win over High Point on Tuesday evening at Williard Stadium.
LaBruna, a 5-10 shortstop, tagged three RBI singles and a sacrifice fly while reaching base safely in four of his five plate appearances. The 3-for-3 performance improved his batting average to .310 for the season and gave him the most runs in a game by a Duke player since all-time home run leader Nate Freiman had seven RBI on Feb. 21, 2009.
Thanks to LaBruna’s first five RBI and a solid first four innings by starter Eric Pfisterer (1-0), Duke jumped out to an 8-1 lead by the beginning of the fifth inning. The Panthers, however, scored three runs in the fifth and loaded the bases with one out before Duke used the relief duo of freshman Drew Van Orden and junior closer Ben Grisz to hold High Point to three hits over the final 3.2 innings. Van Orden entered the game with the bases loaded with one out in the sixth inning and surrendered just two hits over the next 2.2 innings. Grisz followed by retiring three of the four batters he faced in the ninth to record his first save of the year.
Duke (11-2) tagged 15 hits in the victory, a career-high four of which came from senior Dennis O’Grady. O’Grady, who is also 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA as Duke’s Saturday starter, finished 4-for-4 with an RBI and four runs. LaBruna, who hit in the nine spot behind O’Grady in the batting order, drove him in for all four of his runs.
Duke staked Pfisterer to an early 6-1 lead with back-to-back three-run innings in the second and third. LaBruna drove in three RBI with a pair of singles during that span, scoring O’Grady with both hits after the senior first baseman reached with a single in the second and an RBI double in the third.
LaBruna’s bat stayed hot through the fifth when he tagged another two-run single for his fourth and fifth RBI of the day. With two outs and runners on second and third, LaBruna laced Steven Schils’ 2-1 offering back up the middle to increase Duke’s lead to 8-1.
Pfisterer, meanwhile, shut down the High Point bats through his first four frames allowing just one hit and one run. The 6-2, 220-pound southpaw retired eight straight hitters from the second through fourth inning and did not allow a walk until two outs in the fourth.
Pfisterer ran into control issues in the fifth, however, and the Panthers closed the deficit to 8-4 on a sacrifice fly from Murray White and a two-out, two-run single from Steve Antolik. Despite surrendering two walks, two singles and a hit batter, however, Pfisterer stranded two men on base and escaped the jam by allowing just three runs.
Pfisterer got himself into a jam in the sixth, and the Panthers made him pay with two more runs to cut the deficit to 8-6. A one-out walk and back-to-back singles ended Pfisterer’s day and prompted Duke to bring in Van Orden, who inherited the bases loaded with one out. High Point shortstop shortstop Mike Mercurio welcomed him to the game with an RBI seeing-eye single through the right side, but Van Orden bounced back to retire the next two hitters on groundouts to keep the damage to just one more run.
Van Orden successfully bridged the game into the ninth inning by retiring six of the next seven hitters he faced in the seventh and eighth inning. Duke then called on Grisz, who sat down three of the four batters he faced in the ninth for his first save of the year.
Duke will continue its midweek road slate with a 4 p.m. meeting at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., on Wednesday, March 9. Duke will start right-handed freshman Robert Huber (2-0, 2.89 ERA) against William & Mary right-hander Brett Goodloe (0-0, 7.36 ERA).