CORAL GABLES, Fla. – In the last start of his college career, senior Dennis O'Grady threw the first 7.2 innings of a combined four-hit shutout to lead Duke past No. 15 Miami 2-0 on Saturday evening at Alex Rodriguez Park.
O’Grady’s swan song was the best start of his career, as the senior from Floral Park, N.Y., held the 15th-ranked Hurricanes (33-20, 18-10 ACC) to three hits in their home park. O’Grady carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and protected Duke’s two-run lead until sophomore Marcus Stroman took over and recorded the final four outs for his fourth save of the season.
“I told our guys, there are baseball gods, and if there’s a guy that’s earned a right to go out like this in storybook fashion, it’s Dennis,” head coach Sean McNally said. “He’s had a great year for us. He’s worked unbelievably hard, he does everything right and he’s gotten better and better and better. For him to put it all together and culminate in his last time out pitching for Duke, he earned that. I’m incredibly excited for him and proud of him. He’s got a lot of baseball ahead of him, but it’s a great way for him to go out with us.”
Miami advanced just three runners past first base against O’Grady. The Hurricanes had a chance to tie the game with runners on the corners and one out in the fifth, but O’Grady dished out two of his six strikeouts to end the threat and keep the shutout alive. He had another jam with runners at the corners in the seventh, but he used his changeup to get pinch hitter Chantz Mack to foul out to end the inning.
“My changeup came back to me,” O’Grady said. “I’ve been missing that the last couple weekends, and Sned [pitching coach Sean Snedeker] and I’ve been working on it. I made a big pitch with that. In the middle of the game, Sned said that it was going to come down to one pitch and it’s going to be the changeup, and it did. I threw it and [Mack] popped it up.”
Stroman did his part as well, moving from right field to the mound with two outs in the eighth and the tying run on second base. The sophomore right-hander worked out of that jam and then made quick work of the Hurricanes in the ninth to secure the victory. Stroman also tagged two hits, scored the first run of the game and stole his 12th base of the year.
Junior Will Piwnica-Worms provided both of Duke’s runs with an RBI single in the fourth that scored Stroman and a towering solo home run in the seventh. The two RBI gave Piwnica-Worms 31 on the season, and he also stole his team-leading 20th stolen base of the year. The steals from Piwnica-Worms and Stroman gave Duke 82 for the program’s most swipes since 1993.
O’Grady and Whaley dueled through the first three innings before the Blue Devils scored the first run of the game on Piwnica-Worms’ fourth-inning base hit. The RBI knock back up the middle drove in Stroman, who reached on a leadoff single, moved to second on a groundout by Chris Marconcini and to third on a failed pickoff attempt by Whaley.
O’Grady faced the minimum through four innings and carried a no-hit bid into the fifth. Brad Fieger broke it up with a one-out single in the eighth that left runners at the corners, but that made little difference to O’Grady who struck out two straight to end the threat and keep Duke ahead 1-0.
The pitcher’s duel continued into the seventh inning after O’Grady shut out the Hurricanes for the sixth straight frame. He got some help from his catcher in the bottom of the sixth when Jeff Kremer who caught Miami leadoff man Zeke DeVoss stealing second. DeVoss, the ACC’s stolen base leader with 29 steals, was successful in over 80 percent of his tries before Kremer caught him at second.
Piwnica-Worms gave Duke another lift in the top of the seventh with a long solo homer that increased the lead to 2-0. With a 1-0 count, Piwnica-Worms launched his second home run of the year well over the left field wall. The home run was only the second allowed at home all season by Whaley.
O’Grady stranded two runners in the seventh and recorded the first two outs in the eighth, but needed some help from Stroman and to get out of the inning. After the leadoff runner reached on an error and O’Grady dished out a two-out walk, Stroman moved from right field to the mound with the tying run on first base. The sophomore right-hander walked the first batter he saw, but then got cleanup hitter Rony Rodriguez to pop up to shallow right field where second baseman Matt Berezo made an over-the-shoulder catch to end the bases-loaded threat.
Stroman stayed on the mound in the ninth and shook off a leadoff single by Harold Martinez to retire the next three hitters and secure the win.
Duke will play its season finale against Miami on Saturday, May 21, at 1 p.m. at Alex Rodriguez Park. Miami will start right-hander E.J. Encinosa (4-5, 3.16 ERA), while Duke has not announced a starter.