DURHAM, N.C. – Brian Holmes shook off a one-hour lightning delay and struck out eight batters over six scoreless innings to lead Wake Forest past Duke 7-2 in the series opener on Friday evening at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Due to threat of inclement weather later in the evening, Saturday’s game time has been moved up two hours to 12 p.m.
Holmes (3-3) gave up three hits through his first 3.2 innings and then came back out after the delay to finish up his 115-pitch outing. The sophomore left-hander did not allow a hit after the delay, and Wake Forest relievers Justin Van Grouw and Michael Dimock held Duke (23-27, 5-20 ACC) scoreless until the ninth inning to secure the win.
Wake Forest (23-27, 5-20 ACC) got two RBI from Mac Williamson on a sacrifice fly in the third inning and an RBI single in the eighth. Steven Brooks, Matt Conway, Carlos Lopez and Charlie Morgan also drove in one run apiece, and Brooks stole his team-leading 25th base of the season and crossed the plate three times.
Wake Forest leadoff batter Pat Blair reached base in all six of his plate appearances, drawing three walks while tagging a double and two singles. He scored twice and improved his season walk total to 48, which is tied for the ACC lead.
Duke leadoff batter Jeff Kremer drove in Duke’s lone RBI with a bases loaded single up the middle in the bottom of the ninth. Kremer collected two hits and improved his team-leading batting average to .356. Senior Dennis O'Grady also walked twice and recorded a hit in one of his final home games as a Blue Devil.
After a scoreless first two innings from Holmes and Duke starter Chase Bebout (2-4), Wake Forest jumped out to a 1-0 lead on the sacrifice fly by Williamson. After Brooks drew a leadoff walk, stole second and Conway followed with a single through the left side, Wililamson lifted a fly ball to deep center field to send in Brooks for Wake Forest’s first run of the game.
The Demon Deacons chased Bebout in the third inning and then scored two more runs in the fourth on a Brooks double and a Duke fielding error. Duke moved a man into scoring position in the bottom of the fourth, but after a one hour and one minute delay, play resumed and Holmes struck out Ryan Munger to end the threat and keep the Deacs on top 3-0.
Holmes showed no ill effects from the delay and threw two more shutout innings after the hour-long break. The sophomore left-hander surpassed the 100-pitch mark in the sixth, but picked up his eighth strikeout of the game in the process.
The Demon Deacons had a chance to add to their 3-0 lead in the top of the seventh, but Duke right fielder Brian Litwin saved two runs when he chased down a fly ball in the right field gap and held onto it for the third out after colliding with teammate Will Piwnica-Worms. With men on first and second, Mark Rhine lifted a fly ball to deep right center, and Piwnica-Worms and Litwin both gave chase. The two met in the right field gap, and Litwin made the grab just before hitting his junior teammate at full speed. Litwin stayed on the ground momentarily before raising his arm to signal the catch.
Duke could not keep Wake Forest down for long, however, as the Demon Deacons finally broke out for a four-run eighth inning to increase their lead to 7-0. Duke reliever Dillon Haviland, who entered the game in place of classmate Robert Huber after the rain delay, held Wake Forest scoreless over his first three innings but then gave way to the eighth-inning rally that featured two bases-loaded singles and a sacrifice fly. The first two runs were charged to Haviland, and the final two went to fellow freshman Drew Van Orden.
Justin Van Grouw took over for Wake Forest in the seventh and kept Holmes’ shutout streak alive by keeping Duke scoreless over his first two innings, but Duke finally got on the board in the bottom of the ninth. A Wake Forest fielding error and three straight singles – including an RBI base knock by Kremer – led to Duke’s first run, and a bases-loaded wild pitch by reliever Michael Dimock sent in the second run. Dimock quickly rebounded, however, and struck out the next three hitters to end the game.
Duke and Wake Forest will resume the series on Saturday at 12 p.m. The Blue Devils will start right-handed senior Dennis O’Grady (5-3, 3.77 ERA) in his final home start against Demon Deacon southpaw Tim Cooney (6-2, 2.55 ERA).