DURHAM, N.C. – Nate Freiman crushed a go-ahead three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning and drove in all four of Duke’s runs to lift the Blue Devils to a 4-3 win over Davidson Tuesday evening at Jack Coombs Field.
Duke (25-13, 9-9 ACC) entered the seventh inning trailing 2-1, but strung together a pair of singles before Freiman mashed his 11th home run of the season over the left field wall to put Duke on top for the rest of the game. It was the second straight game in which the Blue Devils rode Freiman’s bat to a win after he drove in the game-winning single in Sunday’s 8-7 series-clinching win over NC State.
Duke starter Will Currier and relievers Tim Sherlock (1-0) and Dennis O'Grady (S,2) combined to hold the Wildcats (13-17) to six hits and two runs over seven innings in a pitcher’s duel that lasted just two hours and 20 minutes. None of the three issued a walk, while Currier gave up just one earned run over a career-high matching 6.0 innings. The 6-4 junior right-hander struck out four before handing the ball to Sherlock, who pitched one perfect inning on the way to his first career win, and O’Grady, who collected his second multi-inning save of the season.
Freiman finished with four RBI and three hits on the day and was a triple short of hitting for the cycle. He was one of three Blue Devils with multiple hits, leading Ryan McCurdy and Will Piwnica-Worms, who each went 2-for-3. McCurdy scored twice, while Piwnica-Worms crossed the plate once.
Davidson freshman Ryan Overcash turned in five solid innings in which he gave up just one run on five hits without surrendering a walk. He had his shot at a win spoiled after he left, however, when Freiman drove the three-run homer off of left-handed reliever Mac Hunter (0-2).
Currier mowed down the top of Davidson’s lineup in the first two innings, sitting down six straight while fanning two. He rolled four groundouts during the first two frames before allowing his first base runner on his own fielding error in the top of the third inning. Davidson center fielder Brett Shore laid down a bunt to the right side that Freiman fielded off the bag and flipped to Currier, who bobbled the ball and let it fall to the ground to allow Shore to reach first base safely. That error came back to hurt Currier, as nine-hitter Graham Chapman and leadoff man Zach Kayne followed it up with consecutive run-scoring doubles to left field. Currier bounced back after giving up the two-baggers, however, and sat down two straight Wildcats with his third strikeout and fifth groundout of the game.
Overcash was just as effective for Davidson through his first two frames, scattering one hit, but he gave way to an RBI double to Freiman in the bottom of the third. With McCurdy standing on first base after a one-out single, Freiman reached out for a 1-0 fastball on the outside part of the plate and muscled it to the warning track in left field. McCurdy scored all the way from first on the double to give the Blue Devils their first run and cut the deficit to 2-1.
Davidson’s two-run third inning was just a blip in an otherwise dominant performance by Currier, who had used just 58 pitches through his first five innings. Currier retired six of the seven batters he faced in the fourth and fifth, giving up just one base hit to Tommy Piacenza that squeaked through the right side of the infield.
Unfortunately for Duke, Overcash also settled in after giving up Frieman’s double in the third and scattered two Duke singles en route to a scoreless fourth and fifth. Duke put a man in scoring position with two outs in the fifth following singles from Piwnica-Worms and Frieman, but Overcash got a well-hit flyout to center field from Williams that ended the rally and kept Davidson’s 2-1 lead intact.
Both Duke and Davidson gave their starters a rest after the top of the sixth inning and swapped out both of them for a pair of left-handers. Davidson went with Hunter, who sat down all three Blue Devils he faced, while Duke countered with Sherlock, who did the same to Davidson’s six through eight hitters.
Duke’s bats finally got going in the bottom of the seventh and got three runs on one swing of the bat by Freiman, who put Duke on top 4-2 with a two-out, three-run homer. Freiman’s long ball sent in Piwnica-Worms and McCurdy, who both singled in the inning. It was the 11th home run of the season for Freiman, matching the career high he set in 2008, and put him in sole possession of fourth place on Duke’s career home run list. It was also the 225th career hit for Freiman, bumping him up to 12th place on Duke’s career hit list, and sent in his 162nd career RBI, which is good enough for seventh place on Duke’s all-time RBI list.
Duke opted to bring in O’Grady to take relieve Sherlock in the bottom of the seventh, handing the sophomore right-hander a 4-2 lead to protect. O’Grady got out of the inning with the lead still intact, but gave up a two-out single to Brady that cut the score to 4-3. The base knock sent in Chapman, who ripped a single through the right side to open the inning and then scored from second base on Brady’s single up the middle.
The Blue Devils let O’Grady stay on the mound to finish out the game in the ninth, and he put the game to rest with a seven-pitch inning that included two three-pitch strikeouts. The six-out save was the second of the season for O’Grady, who turned in his fourth straight multi-inning relief appearance. O’Grady, who has walked just six batters in 26.0 innings this year, fanned three Davidson hitters, giving him 24 for the season to surpass the 23 strikeouts he had as a freshman.
Up next for Duke is another non-conference home game against Wofford on Wednesday, April 15, at 7 p.m. The Blue Devils have not played the Terriers since the 1998 season, but own a 16-4-1 record in the all-time series.