DURHAM, N.C. – Duke broke out for 12 runs on 12 hits over the final two innings to turn a one-run game into a lopsided, 14-6 decision over North Carolina Central Tuesday evening at the Durham Athletic Park. The Blue Devils ended the seventh with a 2-1 advantage before plating five runs in the eighth and seven in the ninth.
Sophomore Jimmy Herron and junior Justin Bellinger both homered in the contest, while sophomore Griffin Conine went 4-for-6 with four RBI and two runs scored. In total, five Blue Devils contributed multi-hit games in the offensive outburst.
“It was great to see our offense break out there,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “Early on, our guys were pressing and trying to do too much. We pushed a run across in the seventh, got the lead and really relaxed there in the eighth and ninth. We strung together really good at bats and you could see the air pick back up in the dugout.”
Duke (1-4) held a slim 2-1 lead after the seventh thanks to solid pitching from sophomore Hunter Davis, graduate student Nick Hendrix and senior Karl Blum (1-0). Blum retired all six batters he faced in the fifth and sixth, striking out three to record the win.
“Obviously early we pitched exceptionally well,” Pollard said. “Karl Blum was lights out again. Hunter Davis had a really good start. Nick Hendrix came in and produced some swings and misses. Lots of good things to build off of.”
Herron began the game with a leadoff home run, sending NCCU starter Landon Fraley’s 3-2 offering over the left field wall for his first career home run. However, Fraley would settle in after the first, keeping Duke off the board for the remainder of his six-inning outing. The Eagle left-hander scattered five hits, struck out four and did not issue a walk in the no decision.
NCCU (2-2) manufactured a run in the third to knot the score one-all. Eagle second baseman Corey Joyce picked up the RBI with NCCU’s first hit of the afternoon, sending a game-tying single through the left side. A one-out walk to Dominic Cuevas coupled with a balk call and groundball moved the runner to third for Joyce.
The game remained knotted at a run apiece until the seventh. A Zack Kone leadoff walk and Michael Smiciklas single put the leadoff men aboard. Junior Jack Labosky advanced the runners with a groundball and Chris Dutra bounced a grounder to short to drive in the run.
After totaling six hits the first seven innings, Duke amassed four in the eighth alone to stake a 7-1 advantage. Conine began the rally with an RBI double prior to Bellinger’s two-run shot to right, his first homer of the season and ninth of his career. Kone scored on a wild pitch and junior Max Miller added a sacrifice fly to give Duke a comfortable margin.
The hits kept falling in a Blue Devil ninth that saw Duke score seven runs. Herron started it off with a double and Duke sent 12 batters to the plate before the frame’s conclusion.
NCCU scored one run in the eighth on a Carlos Ortiz RBI base knock and got three back in the ninth on Dominic Cueva’s homer. Joyce added a second RBI single but it was not enough for the Eagles to overcome the substantial deficit.
Duke is set for its home opener this weekend, welcoming Army West Point to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park for a three-game series Friday-Sunday, Feb. 24-26.