SURPRISE, Ariz. –Duke dropped two decision on opening day, falling to Gonzaga, 6-1, before suffering a 6-3 setback to No. 7 Oregon State. The Blue Devils fell behind early in both contests as the Bulldogs scored three in the first and the Beavers benefitted from a five-run second inning.
"We were ultimately victimized by the fact we had opportunities to get off the field in each game and didn’t do that," said head coach Chris Pollard. "That proved to be the difference. Against good clubs, when given the opportunity to get off the field, you have to take them. Give credit to Gonzaga and Oregon State, they took advantage."
Game 1: Gonzaga 6, Duke 1
Gonzaga RHP Justin Vernia (1-0) was perfect through 6.2 innings to lead the Bulldogs past Duke, 6-1, Friday morning in the season opener for both squads.
Vernia covered eight complete innings, allowing one unearned run on three hits with four strikeouts.
Gonzaga plated three first-inning runs on four hits before Duke starter James Ziemba (0-1) was able to settle in. Four straight Bulldog batters reached with one out, including doubles from Jeff Bohling and Justin Jacobs. A Nick Brooks RBI single scored the third run prior to an inning-ending strikeout.
Ziemba settled in after the rocky start, yielding just one unearned run the remainder of his 4.2 inning outing. The 6-10 left-hander allowed seven hits, fanned seven and walked just one.
Vernia retired the first 20 Blue Devils batters he faced, but Griffin Conine put an end to the senior right-hander’s perfect game bid with a sharply hit single through the left side. A Bulldog error extended the inning, providing Kone the opportunity to drive an RBI double inside the right field line. Duke loaded the bases, but could chip away no further into the deficit.
Gonzaga benefitted from a Duke eighth-inning throwing error to plate a pair of unearned runs, extending the margin to a comfortable 6-1.
Game 2: Oregon State 6, Duke 3
A five-run Oregon State second inning propelled the Beavers past the Blue Devils in Friday’s second contest.
OSU scored two runs aided by a pair of walks before Duke was unable to convert what would have been an inning-ending double play. Shortstop Nick Madrigal then swatted a three-run homer to turn a two-run game in to a 5-0 Beaver advantage.
The Blue Devils countered to start the third, beginning with freshman Chase Cheek’s first career hit. Jimmy Herron laced an RBI double to left then Conine legged out an RBI triple to cut the deficit, 5-2.
Duke starter Mitch Stallings (0-1) exited the ballgame with the bases loaded in the third, giving way to senior Karl Blum who pitched four innings of effective relief. Blum yielded a lone infield single over that span to keep Duke within striking distance. Graduate student Nick Hendrix followed with two scoreless innings of his own.
"Really liked the way our bullpen threw the baseball today," Pollard added. "We competed and did a great job of attacking hitters."
The Blue Devils scratched across an unearned run in the seventh but could come no closer.
Oregon State starter Bryce Fehmel (1-0) pitched six innings to pick up the win. Fehmel allowed three run, two earned, on seven hits. He walked one and struck out three. Four OSu relievers preserved the margin and freshman Mitchel Verburg recorded the final out to gather his first career save.
Cheek recorded the first two hits of his young career and scored a pair of runs. Herron also ended the game with two hits and reached base in four of his five plate appearances.
Duke returns to action Saturday, Feb. 18 at 10 a.m. (12 p.m. EST) The Blue Devils are slated to play Gonzaga a second time in as many days.