GREENSBORO, N.C. – Corey Overholtzer went 3-for-4 with a triple, four RBI and three runs to lead UNC Greensboro to an 8-4 win over Duke Wednesday evening at UNCG Stadium.
The Spartans (9-17) used five pitchers and an errorless defensive performance to hold Duke to eight hits and four runs in the win. Reliever Rob Gilliam picked up a five-out save after coming into the game in the eighth inning with a 7-4 lead to protect and sat down all five batters he faced.
UNC Greensboro had just one more hit than Duke (22-12, 7-8 ACC), but drew 10 walks in the win. Six of those free passes results in runs for the Spartans, who scored all six of their eighth-inning runs with two outs. Cleanup hitter Ed Jayjack sent in two runs with two hits and right fielder Brent O’Berry drove in two as well.
Reliever Greg Smith (3-4) picked up the win after entering the game in the sixth inning and holding Duke scoreless on two hits over his 2.1 innings of work. Duke starter Trevor Cesar (2-2) took the loss after giving up five runs before being pulled with no outs in the second inning. Junior Will Currier took over for Cesar and scattered one hit over Duke’s next four innings, matching a career high with six strikeouts while retiring nine straight batters at one point.
Matt Williams, Will Piwnica-Worms and Ryan McCurdy were the lone bright spots for the Blue Devil offense. All three had two hits and scored a run, while Williams also sent one in with the second of consecutive doubles in the fifth inning. His two-bagger drove in leadoff man Alex Hassan, who also reached with a double. McCurdy, who went 5-for-5 in a double header against N.C. Central, has reached base safely in nine of his last 10 plate appearances.
Duke struck first on a two-out single by cleanup hitter Jeremy Gould in the first inning that gave Cesar a 1-0 lead to protect before he ever took the mound. Gould’s single sent in Williams from second base after the Duke two-hitter reached with a line drive single that skipped off the top of the glove of Spartan third baseman Kris Richards and rolled into left field.
The Spartans struck back quickly, however, and strung together three hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first to take a 2-1 lead. Cesar struggled with his command in the inning and gave up a leadoff walk before surrendering a pair of singles and a one-out sacrifice fly. Michael Wall got the rally started by drawing the leadoff walk on four pitches and moved over to third on a base hit down the left field line by Overholtzer. Three-hitter Pedro Leon then lined out to Lemmerman for the first out, but Ed Jayjack kept the rally going with another base knock through the right side that plated Wall to tie the game. Overholtzer moved over to third on the hit and scored soon after on a Ray Quinones sacrifice fly to right field before Cesar got out of the inning and stranded two runners at the corners.
UNC Greensboro continued to hit Cesar in the bottom of the second and scored three more runs on an RBI triple by Overholtzer and a double by Leon. Overholtzer’s three-bagger followed a leadoff walk to O’Berry and a hit batter and landed on the warning track in center field to send in both runs. His deep knock signaled the end of the game for Cesar, who handed the ball to Currier with one out and Overholtzer on third. Currier forced Leon to sky a pop up down the left field line, but the wind got hold of it and blew it away from a group of three Blue Devils who converged on it, resulting in an RBI double. Currier stuck to the gameplan, however, and struck out the next two batters, getting both Jayjack and Quinones to chase two-strike breaking balls. The damage had already been done though, as the Spartans entered the third inning with a 5-1 lead.
After two strong innings from Matt Parish, UNC Greensboro changed starters and called on Warren Slack to take over in the third. Slack used just nine pitches to sit down the top of Duke’s lineup in order, inducing three straight groundouts to work through the inning.
Currier, meanwhile, picked up where he left off in the second and struck out the first two batters he faced in the third to open a 1-2-3 inning. Currier got both batters to chase the same pitch he used for his first two punchouts – a two-strike curve ball that he snapped off into the dirt – before forcing O’Berry to fly out to left field for the final out.
Piwnica-Worms gave Duke a chance to cut into UNC Greensboro’s 5-1 lead after hammering a one-out single into left field, but Slack got himself out of the inning to keep Duke scoreless for the third straight inning. Even after a passed ball pushed Piwnica-Worms to second base, Slack kept pounding the strike zone and rolled consecutive groundouts to strand Piwnica-Worms on third.
The Spartans opted to change pitchers once again in the top of the fifth, but it backfired and allowed Duke to score two runs and cut the deficit to 5-3. McCurdy started the rally with a bloop single to shallow center field, which brought the top of Duke’s lineup to the plate and prompted the Spartans to bring in right-hander Zach Furl with one out and McCurdy on first base. Hassan and Williams welcomed Furl to the game with consecutive doubles that sent in a pair of runs before Furl settled in and retired Duke’s next two hitters to end the inning.
Currier kept his hitless streak alive through the bottom of the fifth, retiring nine straight Spartans before giving up a walk with one out in the inning. He bounced back to strike out Quinones for the first of two straight outs that ended the inning. The strikeout was the season-high fifth of the game for Currier, who held the Spartans without a run for the third straight inning.
Furl stayed on the mound to face Piwnica-Worms in the top of the sixth, but hit him with a 2-1 fastball to give Duke a base runner with no outs. That free pass came back to haunt UNC Greensboro, even after Furl left the game after the hit batsman. Piwnica-Worms slid over to second base on a wild pitch from newly-inserted reliever Greg Smith and tagged up on a fly ball to the right side by Lemmerman to move to third. O’Grady would then send him in with a sacrifice fly ball to deep left field that cut the previous four-run deficit to 5-4.
Currier matched his career high with his sixth strikeout in the bottom of the sixth, but was pulled in favor of Michael Ness after walking O’Berry on five pitches. Ness inherited a man on first, but quickly loaded the bases with consecutive walks, which set the table for an Overholtzer sac fly that ran the lead to 6-4. Ness then rolled a ground ball to third base that would have ended the inning, but it slipped out of O’Grady hand when he tried to throw to first and re-loaded the bases for Jayjack with two outs. The error came back to hurt, as Ness slipped a breaking ball past Williams to let one more run score before he ended the inning with another groundout.
Ben Grisz took over on the mound for Duke in the bottom of the seventh and retired the side in order for his third consecutive scoreless inning. Grisz, who tossed 2.1 shutout innings against No. 17 Clemson in his last appearance, fired 13 pitches, including nine strikes, and struck out a batter looking. He could do nothing to help Duke offensively, however, as the Blue Devils still had to conquer a three-run deficit with just six outs remaining.
Piwnica-Worms tried to spark another rally with a two-out double in the top of the eighth, but Rob Gilliam came into the game to foil the effort and take the game into the ninth. Piwnica-Worms laced a line drive down the right field line and hustled all the way around first base to stretch it into a double. The two-base knock was the ninth double of the season for Piwnica-Worms and gave him two hits for the 12th time in Duke’s last 16 games. Duke could do nothing against Gilliam, however, who entered the game after the double and sat down Duke’s next two hitters to keep the 7-4 lead intact.
The Spartans broke the game open with a six-run eighth inning that featured five two-out runs that built their lead to 13-4. The first two-out knock was from Overholtzer, which was his third hit and fourth RBI of the game. Leon and Jayjack followed Overholtzer’s base knock with singles of their own before Quinones took a two-out walk that loaded the bases. Duke then called on right-hander Jonathan Foreman to get out of the jam, but his first four pitches to Edwards were out of the zone to grant him an RBI walk. He followed with another walk to Alex Frederick that sent in a run before another pitching change ensued for the Blue Devils. Tim Sherlock took the mound and gave up a two-run single to O’Berry before finally shutting down the inning with a popup.
Trailing 13-4 after the six-run inning, Duke cleared the bench and sent pinch hitters Eric Pfisterer, Brian Litwin and Marcus Jones to the plate against Gilliam. Gilliam made short work of the Duke reserves, however, and sat them down in order to lock up the win.
Up next for the Blue Devils is a three-game home series against NC State at Jack Coombs Field, beginning on Friday, April 10, at 7 p.m. Friday’s game will be available on ACC Select, while radio broadcasts of all three can be heard free of charge at www.GoDuke.com. Games two and three will take place on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 1 p.m.