DURHAM, N.C. – Will Piwnica-Worms had two hits in each game and accounted for six total runs to help Duke sweep a pair of seven-inning games, 4-2 and 13-2, in a double header against Alabama A&M Tuesday afternoon at Jack Coombs Field.
Piwnica-Worms went 2-for-3 with a double and a stolen base in the opener and 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs in the finale. The outing raised the freshman center fielder’s average to .313 and helped Duke (16-7, 5-4 ACC) win its fourth straight game.
The Blue Devils knocked out 13 hits in game two and 20 total hits in the twinbill, 10 of which went for extra bases. Game one starter Jonathan Foreman (2-1) turned in five solid innings to notch the win in game one, while the freshmen trio of Trevor Cesar (1-1), Eric Pfisterer and David Putman combined to hold the Bulldogs (6-10) to three hits in game two. Junior reliever Michael Ness also contributed two shutout innings in game one to notch his second save of the season. Duke’s pitchers surrendered just three hits and two earned runs in the 14-inning span
Right fielder Alex Hassan drove in two runs with two hits in game two and finished with three RBI in the series. Hassan ended a nine-game hit streak after going 0-for-3 in the opener, but came through with two hits in game two for his team-leading 16th multi-hit game of the season. Nate Freiman, Jeremy Gould and Ryan McCurdy also had hits in each game with McCurdy and Gould each tagging two doubles. Tom Luciano and Dennis O'Grady also tripled in game two.
Game One: Foreman And Ness Shut Down Bulldogs In 4-2 Win
Jonathan Foreman shut out Alabama A&M over the first five innings and kept the Bulldogs hitless for his first four frames before giving way to reliever Michael Ness, who threw the final two innings to lock up a save in the 4-2 win.
Foreman struck out five batters in the game while giving up two hits and two runs, only one of which was earned. Foreman (2-1) picked up his second win as many starts and lowered his ERA nearly a full point with the outing.
Ness, meanwhile, logged his ninth multi-inning relief appearance of the year and gave up just one hit on the way to his second save of the year. The junior reliever also fanned three batters, giving him 22 strikeouts in 20.2 innings this season.
Four Blue Devils contributed RBI in the win, including center fielder Will Piwnica-Worms, who finished 2-for-3 with a double and a run. It was the eighth multi-hit game of the season for Piwnica-Worms, who entered the game batting .289 and left the double header hitting .313. Leadoff man Alex Hassan, cleanup hitter Jeremy Gould and nine-hitter Ryan McCurdy also drove in runs.
Alabama A&M starter Grant Mattix tossed six innings for a complete game, giving up four runs on seven hits.
Freiman and Gould got the scoring started with a pair of two-out doubles in the first inning. Freiman started the rally with a bomb to deep center field that landed on the warning track and scored on the next at bat when Gould mashed a double of his own to the warning track in left field. The back-to-back two-baggers staked Foreman a 1-0 lead.
Foreman took that lead and ran with it, sitting down the first six batters he faced on just 16 pitches. He got two more runs to work with in the second after McCurdy and Hassan drove in a pair to put Duke ahead 3-0. McCurdy sent in the first run of the inning with a double to the right field gap that scored Saade and moved both he and Will Piwnica-Worms into scoring position. Piwnica-Worms, who showcased his speed in the inning by beating out an infield single and then stealing second, would then score on a sacrifice fly to deep left field by Hassan. Alabama A&M left fielder Diego Lopez robbed Hassan of a potential extra-base hit on the fly ball, chasing it down on the warning track and pulling it out of the air just before he crashed into the left field wall.
Foreman came out in the top of the third and struck out the first two batters he faced on seven pitches before recording his third straight three-up, three-down inning by forcing nine-hitter Fabian Harper to line out to second base. Through his first three innings, Foreman tossed 18 of his 24 pitches in for strikes.
Mattix, meanwhile, needed 71 pitches to get through the first three innings. He gave up a leadoff double to Lemmerman in the top of the third – Duke’s third double of the game – but held Lemmerman on second by retiring three batters in a row for the first time in the game.
The Bulldogs broke up Foreman’s no-hit bid with two outs in the fourth, thanks a double in the gap by three-hitter Hayes. Foreman brushed off the extra-base knock, however, by striking out cleanup hitter Alton Ellison for his fourth punchout of the game.
Alabama A&M gave Foreman his first jam of the ballgame in the top of the sixth, putting runners on second and third with one out, but Foreman stifled the scoring threat with two clutch outs to escape the inning with Duke’s 3-0 lead intact. Foreman issued his first walk of the game to Kenneth Townsend to start the inning and then surrendered a bunt single to Marcus Spencer. Thomas then sacrificed his at bat by laying down another bunt that pushed the runners into scoring position, giving the Bulldogs their first real shot at scoring a run. Foreman, however, kept his shutout intact by forcing a popup for the second out and then fanning Harper with a 1-2 breaking ball for his fifth strikeout of the game.
Foreman’s control evaded him in the top of the sixth, however, and he issued a pair of leadoff walks to Lopez and Kency Duarte to start the inning. The free passes would come back to haunt him, as both runs scored to cut Duke’s lead to 3-2. The free pass to Duarte prompted Duke head coach Sean McNally to replace Foreman with Ness, who inherited runners on first and second with no outs on the board. Ness, who came in for his team-leading 10th relief appearance, came in to face Hayes, who doubled in his previous at bat. He would get Hayes swinging on a missed bunt for the first out, but allowed both Lopez and Duarte to steal second and third during the at bat. Ellison then stepped to the plate and slapped a ground ball up the middle that jumped off the heel of Lemmerman’s glove and allowed Lopez to score and Duarte and Ellison to stay at the corners. Ness then got what should have been the third out by fielding a bunt and firing to first base, but instead was just out number two after the fielding error. Duarte would score on the play to run the score to 3-2 before Ness ended the inning.
Duke went back ahead by two in the bottom of the sixth on a pair of consecutive doubles by pinch hitter Eric Pfisterer and Piwnica-Worms. Pfisterer’s double was roped down the first base line, while Piwnica-Worms’ was a dribbled through the left side that he legged out for extra bases.
With a 4-2 lead to protect following Piwnica-Worms’ RBI double, Ness struck out the first two batters he faced and brushed off a two-out single to lock up the win and his second save of the season.
Game Two: Bottom Of Lineup Leads Duke To Win In 13-Run Outburst
Duke’s bottom four hitters combined to go 8-for-14 with eight runs and five RBI as Duke rolled past Alabama A&M 13-2. Will Piwnica-Worms, Dennis O'Grady, Tom Luciano and Ryan McCurdy each had two hits and two runs as Duke’s six through nine hitters, while leadoff man Alex Hassan and cleanup hitter Jeremy Gould also logged multiple hits.
Starter Trevor Cesar (1-1) picked up his first career win with a four-inning performance that included four strikeouts. Cesar gave up two hits and just one earned run before classmates Eric Pfisterer and David Putman took over and held the Bulldogs scoreless for the remainder of the game.
Alabama A&M struck first with two runs in the top of the second inning, one of which came on a Duke fielding error that would have ended the inning. JT Thomas drew a walk to start the rally and was soon joined on the base paths by Jeremy Bush, who reached with a base hit through the right side. Following a wild pitch on a breaking ball from Cesar, Bernard McKinney sent in the first run with a bunt down the right field line that scored Thomas and put the Bulldogs ahead 1-0. Gould fielded the ball and tagged out McKinney in front of first base for the second out, but had trouble with the next grounder hit his way by Chris Jennings. Jennings roped the roller down the first base line and Gould put his glove on the ground to field it, but it skipped off his mitt and rolled to the edge of the infield. The error allowed Bush to score from third for a 2-0 Alabama A&M lead.
Trailing for the first time in the two-game series, Duke’s bats finally came alive and put up six runs in the bottom of the second inning. Duke sent 11 hitters to the plate, three of which reached with base hits while four others walked or were hit by a pitch. Piwnica-Worms and O’Grady started the rally with consecutive singles, while Tom Luciano kept it going with a bunt single back to the mound that starter Kellen Toone picked up and threw into foul territory for a throwing error. Following a walk to McCurdy that loaded the bases, the Bulldogs pulled Toone and brought in Hernandez whose first assignment was Hassan with a no-out, bases-loaded situation. Hernandez could not get past Duke’s top hitter, however, as Hassan took a fastball on the outside part of the plate to right field for an RBI single. Williams then followed with an RBI fielder’s choice ground ball that he beat out at first base to keep the inning alive, enabling two more runs to come across after Freiman walked to reload the bases and Gould was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. With the bases still loaded, Hernandez issued another walk to Lemmerman for Duke’s fifth run. Duke would score its final run of the inning on another fielder’s choice ground ball from Piwnica-Worms that he also beat out at first to foil what would have been an inning-ending double play.
Cesar settled into a groove after Duke’s six-run outburst in the second and sat down six straight to keep Duke ahead 6-2 heading into the bottom of the fourth. That would be all for Cesar, as he handed the ball over to Pfisterer in the top of the fifth as part of a pre-determined split. With the split, Cesar was in line for the win, which he would eventually earn for the first of his career.
Pfisterer opened his outing by striking out Chris Jennings with a 3-2 fastball that painted the inside corner. He followed that by hitting Fabien Harper in the foot to give him a free pass to first base, but negated the mistake by picking him off for his team-leading third pick of the season.
Following Pfisterer’s first inning of work, Luciano mashed a line drive to deep right-center field and legged it out for a triple. His two-out triple would spark a two-run rally for the Blue Devils that continued with a walk taken by McCurdy and an RBI single to right field by Hassan to sent in Luciano from third. Hassan’s single prompted Alabama A&M to bring in left-hander Juan Flores to face pinch hitter Marcus Jones, who entered the game with runners at the corners. Flores’ first pitch came in for a ball, but his second crossed up his catcher and rolled to the backstop, letting McCurdy trot in from third base for Duke’s final run.
Pfisterer would pick up another strikeout and another pickoff in the top of the sixth. He fanned Duarte to start the inning, but gave up a base hit to Hayes that broke up a three-inning hitless drought for the Bulldogs. Hayes would not stay on first base long, however, as Pfisterer caught him leaning toward second and forced him into a lengthy rundown that eventually resulted in Pfisterer’s fourth pickoff of the season.
The Blue Devils added five more runs in the sixth to increase their lead to 13-2. Duke knocked out four hits in the inning, including a triple from O’Grady and doubles by Gould and McCurdy.
Duke called on Putman to close out the ninth inning, and he sat down three of his four batters faced. Putman struck out the final two batters he faced, giving the freshman right-hander five strikeouts through 4.1 innings of work.
Up next for Duke is a three-game home series against ACC foe Wake Forest at Jack Coombs Field. Game one of the series will begin on Friday, March 27, at 7 p.m., while game two will follow on Saturday at 1 p.m. Saturday’s game will also be televised live by Raycom sports. Duke will then complete the series with the Demon Deacons on Sunday at 1 p.m.