DURHAM, N.C. – Chris Marconcini and Jordan Betts homered, and Robert Huber scattered three runs over six innings to lead Duke past Davidson 7-5 on Tuesday evening at Jack Coombs Field.
Marconcini and Betts, both freshmen, sparked an early Duke rally that saw the Blue Devils (20-16, 4-11 ACC) score six runs over the first three frames. Huber (4-0), also a freshman, took the lead and ran with it, holding Davidson to seven hits while notching a career-high six strikeouts in his second straight midweek victory.
Marconcini delivered the first long ball of the game when he ripped a 1-0 fastball well over the right field wall for his team-leading third homer of the season. Betts followed with an RBI double in that same inning and then mashed his first career home run in his next at bat in the third. Betts’ homer was a two-run shot to opposite field that made him the fourth Blue Devil to top 20 RBI this season.
The Blue Devils knocked double digit hits for the seventh time in the past eight games and are hitting .331 during that span. They did it on Tuesday against a Davidson pitching staff that entered the game with a 4.12 ERA and had held seven of their previous nine opponents to four runs or less.
Included in Duke’s offensive explosion were five extra-base hits, including the first career triple for freshman outfielder Anthony D'Alessandro and the first career hit and RBI for classmate Aaron Cohn.
Duke scored all but one of its runs against Davidson starter Brian Russell (2-3), who surrendered seven hits and six runs – five earned – over 2.1 innings. The Wildcats then turned to their bullpen, which limited Duke to just four hits and one run the rest of the way.
Blue Devil relievers Mark Lumpa, Joe Pedevillano and David Putman were able to match Davidson’s performance, however, and held the Wildcats to three hits and two runs after Huber left the game in the seventh innings. Putman entered the game with the tying run at the plate in the top of the ninth and Duke leading 7-5 and saved the win with a called strikeout.
Despite a chilly evening that featured on-and-off rain showers, the Blue Devil bats came out red hot and scored six runs over the first three innings. Marconcini started the scoring with his line drive solo home run in the first inning, and D’Alessandro and Betts followed with a triple and a double to increase Duke’s lead to 3-0.
Another Duke run crossed on a Jeff Kremer single in the bottom of the second, and then Betts mashed his first career home run in the third to increase Duke’s lead to 6-0. With a 1-2 count and junior Will Piwnica-Worms on second base, Betts took a cutter on the outer half of the plate and drove it down the right field line where it left the park in the right field corner. The long ball was the second extra-base hit of the game for Betts and gave Duke two home runs in a game for the first time this season.
Huber, who held the Wildcats scoreless through the first three innings, finally gave way to a Davidson rally in the top of the fourth but shut the door after allowing two runs. Davidson scored both runs with two outs when nine-hitter Daniel Gerow laced an RBI double down the left field line and leadoff batter Seth Freeman followed with an RBI single into center field.
Davidson went to its bullpen after Betts’ home run, however, and used right-handed freshman Danny Mooney to temporarily shut down Duke’s offense. After Duke knocked seven hits in the first three innings, Mooney did not allow another base hit until the bottom of the fifth. Mooney retired the first seven batters he faced and sat down eight of the nine Blue Devils who stepped into the box against him.
Huber would match Mooney on the other side and ended his outing with shutout frames in the fifth and sixth to keep Duke on top 6-2. Huber would face one batter in the sixth before being replaced by Lumpa, who the Wildcats touched up with an RBI single and a sacrifice fly to bring the game within two runs at 6-4.
Davidson’s bullpen continued to hold Duke in check, using Mac Hunter and Mike Frongello to keep Duke scoreless in the sixth and seventh. The Blue Devils got to Frongello in the bottom of the eighth, however, and scored on a two-out hit-and-run single by Cohn. The RBI base knock slipped through the right side and was the first hit and RBI of Cohn’s career. It plated sophomore Marcus Stroman, who stepped into the left-handed batter’s box and slapped a base hit down the left field line before stealing second for his 10th steal of the year.
Pedevillano, who relieved Lumpa in the bottom of the eighth, retired the first two hitters in the ninth, but then surrendered a two-out triple to two-hitter Forrest Brandt and an RBI double to three-hitter Drew Gadaire. With the tying run then coming to the plate, Duke went to Putman, who first walked designated hitter Danny Weiss on a full count, but then struck out Andrew Barna looking to end the game and secure his first career save.
Duke will now resume ACC play next weekend with a three-game series against No. 1 Virginia on April 15-17 in Charlottesville, Va.