DURHAM, N.C. – Gabriel Saade and Jeremy Gould each drove in three runs and combined for five hits, and freshman Eric Pfisterer went 4.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen to lead Duke to a 10-4 win over Quinnipiac Wednesday evening at Jack Coombs Field.
Hitting at the one and two spots in the batting order for Duke (9-4, 2-1 ACC), Saade and Gould combined to go 5-for-10 with four two-out hits, including back-to-back two-out RBI knocks in the fifth and sixth innings. They combined to drive in six runs in that two-inning span as Duke overcame an early 4-0 deficit to put up all 10 runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
Pfisterer (1-0), a 15th round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds out of high school, earned his first career win after logging a career-high 4.2 innings of work in which he held Quinnipiac (0-9) to three hits while striking out six. Pfisterer tossed 71 pitches in his third relief outing of the season and lowered his ERA to 3.52.
Duke also got one RBI each from Alex Hassan, Jake Lemmerman, Will Piwnica-Worms and Dennis O'Grady, while senior catcher Matt Williams logged two hits, including his second career triple. Gould, Lemmerman, O’Grady and Nate Freiman each doubled to give Duke five extra-base hits in the game. Duke touched up Quinnipiac starter Todd DeFrancesco for four runs – though only one earned – in 4.2 innings and sent reliever Chris Gloor (0-2) home with the loss after roughing him for three runs in less than an inning of work.
Two of Quinnipiac’s runs came on one swing of the bat from outfielder Ben Farina, who delivered a two-run homer as part of a three-run second inning for the Bobcats. They would score once more in the third before Pfisterer and Michael Ness took the mound and shut them down for the remainder of the game. The Blue Devil relief duo of Pfisterer and Ness allowed just four hits – all singles – and struck out nine Bobcat hitters.
Quinnipiac opened the game by putting three men on base, but Duke starter Trevor Cesar rebounded to record two straight outs to leave all three Bobcats on base without surrendering a run. Cesar hit two batters and gave up a hit in the inning, but buckled down when he needed to and induced a bases-loaded ground ball to his shortstop to get out of the inning unharmed.
The Bobcats would not let Cesar off the hook so easily in the top of the second and scored the first three runs in the game on an RBI double from Tyler Turgeon and a two-run homer by Farina. Turgeon’s two-bagger landed on the warning track in straight-away center field and made Duke pay for a leadoff walk, which was taken by Anes Koummal on a full count. Farina then came to the plate with out and mashed a two-run homer to the left of the batter’s eye in center field to run Quinnipiac’s lead to 3-0. That would be the last hit of Quinnipiac’s scoring rally, however, as Piwnica-Worms ran down another deep fly on the warning track in the left-field gap for the second out and Saade fielded a ground ball to his right and fired to first for the final out of the inning.
Duke got its first base runner in the bottom of the second after Williams drew a one-out walk, but had that opportunity quickly washed away by a Quinnipiac double play. That double play marked the first time all season that opponents turned a double play against the Blue Devils in consecutive games after Liberty turned two on Tuesday.
The Bobcats came out and knocked two more hits in the top of the third before Duke pulled Cesar and sent Pfisterer to the mound in his place. Pfisterer inherited runners at first and second with one out after Koummal drove in Quinnipiac’s fourth run of the game with a single to left field. The base knock just barely scored Jeff Carino from second base when he beat out Gould’s throw to the plate with an outside tap slide at the plate. Pfisterer quickly put the rally to rest, however, striking out Turgeon with a 2-2 breaking ball that dropped into the zone for the second out and picking off Koummal at first base to end the inning.
DeFrancesco kept Duke hitless through the third inning and kept the shutout intact, despite a fielding error from the Bobcats that put Ryan McCurdy on base with two outs. McCurdy quickly put himself in scoring position by stealing second, but got no further when DeFrancesco gloved a ground ball hit back at him by Saade and flipped it to first base for his second assist of the inning.
DeFrancesco kept it up in the fourth, retiring Duke’s 2-3-4 hitters in order to bring the no-hit bid into the fourth. Pfisterer, meanwhile, was nearly as effective for Duke, holding the Bobcats scoreless over the next two innings while striking out two in the fifth.
DeFrancesco’s shot at a no-hitter ended in the bottom of the fifth, however, when Duke put together a four-run inning that included three runs with two outs that tied the game at 4-4. Williams and Lemmerman started the rally with back-to-back hits at the start of the inning that put them in scoring position following Lemmerman’s double. O’Grady then sent in the first run with an RBI ground ball that Quinnipiac shortstop Mickey Amanti fielded, but threw wide of his first baseman for a throwing error that would have been the second out of the inning. That error proved very costly for the Bobcats, as McCurdy followed with a flyout that should have ended the inning. Saade then came to the plate with Lemmerman on second and O’Grady on first and mashed a two-strike single to right field that easily plated Lemmerman for Duke’s second run. Saade advanced to second base on the incoming throw to the plate, setting up runners at second and third for Gould. Quinnipiac head coach Dan Gooley allowed DeFrancesco to run the count to 1-2 against Gould, but opted to bring in Gloor to try and close out the at bat. The change did little good, however, as Gould ripped Gloor’s second pitch into right field to score both runners and tie the game at 4-4.
Pfisterer caught hold of Duke’s momentum and sat down the side in order in the top of the sixth on just eight pitches, five of which were used for his fourth strikeout of the game. Through his 3.2 innings of work, Pfisterer had completely shut down Quinnipiac’s lineup, surrendering just one hit to the first 13 batters he faced.
The Blue Devils kept raking in the bottom of the sixth and opened the inning with three hits from their first four batters on the way to five more runs and a 9-4 lead. Duke batted around in the inning and knocked out six total hits, including three with two outs. Freiman started the rally with a well-hit double to the left-center gap and moved over to third two at bats later on a single to the right side from Lemmerman. With runners at the corners, Piwnica-Worms dropped a pop fly into shallow center field for his first hit of the game, which easily scored Freiman to give Duke its first lead of the game. Bobcats center fielder Brian Monack came up firing to the plate after fielding the ball, but sent his throw wide and to the backstop to allow Piwnica-Worms to advance to second and Lemmerman to third. With two men in scoring position, Quinnipiac went to right-hander Andy Mayer, who induced a ground out from O’Grady for the second out of the inning. Neither Blue Devil runner scored on the play, but they would two at bats later when Saade roped his second two-out hit of the day to send in two more runs and run the lead to 8-4. Gould followed Saade’s knock with another single to send in McCurdy, who reached after being hit by a pitch, and Hassan ran that streak to three hits with another two-out knock that moved Gould over to third. Mayer would finally get the final out of the inning, however, by forcing Freiman to fly out to the deepest part of the ball park in center field.
The Bobcats mounted a small rally in the top of the seventh, stringing together two hits and a walk to load the bases, but came away empty-handed after Pfisterer struck out two straight batters to end the inning. Doyle opened the frame with a single that was soon followed by a walk to Carino and another base knock from Bobak Emamian. Emamian’s single came with runners on first and second, but the Bobcats elected not to test the arm of Hassan in right field and held Doyle at third to keep the bases loaded with one out. That decision would cost Quinnipiac its lone shot at scoring a run, as Pfisterer fanned Koummal and Turgeon to end the inning and extend his scoreless streak to four straight frames.
Duke tacked on another run in the bottom of the seventh, thanks to a leadoff triple by Williams and a sacrifice fly from Lemmerman. Just one day after mashing his first home run since his freshman year against Liberty, Williams crushed his first triple since 2006 to right field. The three-base knock was a diving fly ball that dropped just inside the right field corner and set the table for Lemmerman’s sac fly to center field.
Duke closed the book on Pfisterer, who completed his career-high 4.2-inning long outing by shutting down Quinnipiac from the fourth through seventh innings. Ness took over in the eighth and brushed off a single and a walk to take the game into the bottom of the eighth with Duke’s 10-4 lead intact. Saade helped end the threat by making a quick read on a hard-hit ground ball from Marmo that he put his body in front, gloved and fired to first to strand both Bobcats on base.
Ness made quick work of the Bobcats in the final inning, using his first six pitches to strike out Carino and Emamian. He rolled a ground ball with his next pitch to end the game and lock up Duke’s ninth home win of the season.
Up next for the Blue Devils is their first ACC road trip of the season, a three-game series in Coral Gables, Fla., against No. 6 Miami. The series opens at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 13, and continues with game two at 7 p.m. on Saturday and game three at noon on Sunday.