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Duke Falls 9-4 In Series Finale At Wake Forest
Courtesy: Duke Sports Information
Release: 05/11/2008
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Senior designated hitter Jonathan Nicolla went 4-for-5 with a home run and a double in Sunday's game against Wake Forest. Nicolla raised his average to .325 with the performance.
Photo Courtesy: Duke Photography
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 DURHAM, N.C. – Willy Fox and Mike Murray drove in three runs apiece to lead Wake Forest to a 9-4 win over Duke Sunday afternoon that capped a three-game sweep over the Blue Devils.

Fox went 3-for-4 with all three of his hits and RBI coming in the first three innings, while Murray finished 2-for-4 with his 11th home run of the season and his second of the series. Fox proved to be a difficult out for Duke (34-17-1, 8-17-1 ACC) throughout the three-game set and finished the series with a .500 average and an on base percentage of .615. Murray was also a big factor for Wake Forest (22-27, 11-15 ACC), sending in six total runs with two home runs and a double in the series.

The Sunday finale was delayed for nearly two hours in the middle of the fifth inning after a thunderstorm set in and halted play until after 3 p.m. After a delay of an hour and 40 minutes, play finally resumed with the Wake Forest relief trio of Ryan McGrath, Alex Wiesner and Phil Negus holding Duke scoreless over the final four innings. Demon Deacon starter Brad Kledzik (2-4) picked up the win, despite giving up four runs and nine hits over five complete innings.

Duke outhit Wake Forest 12-11 but left 11 runners on base, including eight from the fifth through eighth inning. Senior designated hitter Jonathan Nicolla had four of Duke’s hits, including a double and his fourth home run of the season, on the way to a pair of RBI. Nicolla batted .500 (6-for-12) in the series with a pair of extra base hits and a slugging percentage of .833.

Sophomore outfielder Jeremy Gould and freshman shortstop Jake Lemmerman each finished 2-for-4, while Gould and classmate Gabriel Saade accounted for Duke’s other two RBI. Gould also had a single in each game of the series.

Duke Catcher Matt Williams gunned down two runners trying to steal second on the day, giving him 20 runners caught stealing this season. Williams appeared in the leadoff spot for the first time in his three-year career and went 1-for-5 to finish with one hit in each game of the series. Two-way outfielder Alex Hassan reached base with three walks and scored twice, improving his team-leading run total to 54 on the season. Right fielder Kyle Kreick also crossed the plate after hammering his 12th double of the year.

Duke starter Jonathan Foreman (2-1) took the loss and was taken out in the second inning after giving up five runs on four hits and a pair of walks. The outing ended a streak of six consecutive appearances with no more than two runs allowed for the sophomore right hander, who entered the game with the ACC’s lowest ERA at 1.68. The five-run appearance bumped Foreman’s ERA up to 2.55, which is the lowest among Duke’s starters.

Freshman Dennis O'Grady, junior Kyle Butler and Hassan cleaned up the final seven innings, giving up just three more run after a five-run second inning for the Deacs. Hassan was the most effective of the group and pitched four innings, scattering one run on three hits. Hassan struck out four and walked four while throwing 60 total pitches.

The Blue Devils wasted little time getting on the board and jumped ahead 1-0 in their first offensive series with a two-out RBI double from Nicolla. Kledzik retired Duke’s first two batters with little difficulty and jumped ahead 0-2 in the count against Hassan, but could not put him away. Hassan fouled off another strike before watching the next three pitches go by to draw his eighth walk in as many games. The two-out walk came back to hurt Kledzik just two pitches later when Nicolla mashed a double down the left field line to send in Hassan all the way from first base.

The Deacs followed suit in the bottom half of the first and sent in their first run with a two-run double by Fox that tied the score at 1-1. Fox’s two-bagger drove in leadoff batter Ben Terry all the way from first after the Demon Deacon leadoff man took a four-pitch walk to start off the game. Wake Forest had a shot to jump ahead with the bases loaded and no outs, but Foreman got two crucial outs with a popup and a strikeout before Hassan ran down a fly ball in deep center field to end the inning with all three runners stranded on base.

Wake Forest made up for the squandered scoring opportunity in the bottom half of the second, however, and went ahead 6-1 with a five-run inning that began with a leadoff double from Steven Brooks and pair of RBI singles by Tyler Smith and Fox. Fox’s base knock put the Deacs ahead 3-1 and signaled the end of the day for Foreman, who was taken out in favor of O’Grady with two men on and no outs. O’Grady got a tough out by striking out three-hitter Allan Dykstra with a 1-2 breaking ball on the inner half of the plate, but let an 0-1 offering to Murray get away from him that was promptly belted over the right field fence for a three-run homer. Murray’s bomb was O’Grady’s only mistake of the inning though, as he followed by striking out Dustin Hood and inducing a groundout to the right side to end the inning.

Duke responded with a pair of leadoff singles in the top of the third, but had the potential rally killed when Smith snagged a hard-hit ground ball by Nate Freiman to third base and converted it into a double play for the first two outs. Freiman’s grounder was well-hit to Smith’s glove side, but the Wake Forest third baseman reacted quick enough to pick it up on the second bounce and fired to second base to start the twin killing.

The Demon Deacons followed by taking advantage of a Duke fielding error to score two more runs in the third and go ahead 8-1. The first run came on an RBI groundout by Terry that sent in Goff, who opened the inning with a single and moved over to third on a fielding error by Lemmerman. Fox then came through with his third his in as many innings to send in Terry before McCurdy ended the inning by snagging a hard-hit line drive by Dykstra.

The Blue Devils refused to lie down, however, and scored twice in the fourth to cut the deficit to 8-3. Three of Duke’s first four batters reached with extra base hits, including Nicolla, who opened the inning with a towering shot well over the left field fence. Following Nicolla’s solo homer, Kreick burned Terry with a deep fly ball that landed on the warning track in center field and scored five pitches later when Saade mashed another double down the left field line. Kledzik would settle down, however, and stranded Saade on second base after retiring Duke’s next two hitters.

Duke kept fighting and scored again with two outs in the fifth, despite having to deal with a steady rain that began at the start of the inning. Kledzik was able to quickly sit down Duke’s first two batters, but issued a four-pitch walk to Hassan before Nicolla slapped his next offering to left field for a single. Gould then followed with another first-pitch single to left that scored Hassan from second before Kledzik was able to finally get the third out by striking out Kreick with a 1-2 breaking ball on the outer half of the plate.

The rain continued throughout Duke’s one-run fifth and forced officials to halt play for nearly two hours after the inning ended. The game resumed in the bottom of the fifth at approximately 3:10 p.m., with several defensive changes for the Blue Devils. Hassan moved from center field to the mound after the delay, while Nicolla made his first appearance in right field this season. Freshman Tom Luciano also came off the bench to take over for Hassan in center field. Hassan faced the minimum in his first inning after his catcher erased a one-out single by throwing out Smith at second base on a stolen base attempt.

Wake Forest was also forced to make a pitching change after the delay and sent right hander Ryan McGrath to the mound in the top of the sixth. McGrath was shaky and allowed his first three batters to reach base, including Lemmerman who singled through the right side. He got a big out by striking out Williams with the bases loaded, but was pulled in favor of left hander Alex Wiesner just before Freiman came to bat. Wiesner inherited McGrath’s one-out, bases-loaded jam, but needed just two pitches to roll an inning-ending double play ground ball that kept Wake Forest’s 8-4 lead intact.

After Dykstra blooped a one-out single into center field in the top of the seventh, the Deacs had an opportunity to add to their 8-4 lead after Dykstra moved into scoring position on a passed ball. Hassan let him get no further than third base though, after inducing a weak groundout to the right side and sending Hood down swinging on a full count.

Wiesner ran into control problems in the top of the second and walked two Blue Devils on four pitches each. He settled down just in time, however, and got two straight outs to force Duke to strand both runners. The two left on marked the fifth straight inning in which Duke left one man on base and the third straight frame in which Duke left two on.

Hassan began to struggle with his command as well in the bottom of the seventh and gave up a leadoff double to designated hitter Weldon Woodall before issuing two straight walks to load the bases. He settled down after pitching coach Sean Snedeker made a trip to the mound though, and got out of the jam after allowing just one run on a sacrifice fly. After the RBI flyout from Smith sent in a run and left runners at the corners, Williams was able to throw out a runner at second base while keeping the one on third at bay in an attempted double steal. The runner caught stealing was the second of the day for Williams, who has now gunned down 20 runners stealing this season.

Duke put together another rally in the eighth, but once again came away empty-handed when Fox ran down a potential double in the gap from Hassan to end the inning with two more Blue Devils on base. Fox’s catch in the gap on Hassan’s deep fly left McCurdy and Freiman on base after Freiman came through with a two-out single to right field.

Wake Forest opened the bottom of the eighth with two more walks, but came away empty-handed after Duke turned its second double play of the game. Freiman fielded the roller with runners on first and second and fired to Lemmerman who stepped on second base and immediately fired back to first where Hassan was already set up and waiting for the throw.

Wake Forest then called on right hander Phil Negus to close out the ninth and lock up the series sweep. Nicolla managed a single to lead off frame for his fourth hit of the game, but was soon taken out for pinch runner Ben Condon who was shortly after forced out at second base as part of a double play. Pinch hitter Michael Ghizzoni then came to the plate and gave Negus’ 0-2 offering a ride to deep left field, but came less than 10 feet shy of a home run after Fox caught the ball on the warning track for the final out. 

Duke will return to Durham this Tuesday, May 13, for its final home game of the season. The Blue Devils will wrap up their 2008 home campaign with a non-conference meeting against Campbell at 7 p.m. at Jack Coombs Field. Duke is 26-0 outside of the conference this season and will have a shot at going undefeated in non-conference play for the first time in program history. Starters for either team have not yet been announced.