DURHAM, N.C. – Solid pitching and timely hitting helped Duke overcome defensive miscues to defeat Army West Point, 8-5, Friday evening at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Juniors Jack Labosky and Justin Bellinger both homered and the Blue Devils drove in five runs when hitting with two outs.
All five of Army’s (1-4) runs were unearned as Duke (2-4) received solid pitching performances from starter James Ziemba (1-0) as well as reliever Nick Hendrix, Karl Blum and Labosky. Ziemba earned the win following 6.1 innings, allowing five unearned runs on four hits with four strikeouts.
“That’s what James needed,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “He needed to get settled in and find a rhythm. You can tell he’s had some adrenaline this first two starts and it’s quickened up his delivery. As the game wore on, he really settled into his delivery and got better and better. That was great to see.”
Army leadoff hitter Jon Rosoff reached via fielding error in the top of the first, ultimately resulting in a pair of unearned runs before the frame’s conclusion. First baseman Alex Dickerson notched an RBI single and Army plated a second run prior to an inning-ending groundout.
Duke got a run back in the bottom half on Labosky’s two-out solo homer to deep center field. The shot was Labosky’s first of the season and ninth of his career.
“It was a good growing moment for our team,” Pollard said. “We allowed two runs in the first. We did a good job of having an answer by Jack [Labosky] in the first. We have to learn how to play through that.”
After getting off the field with the bases loaded and no outs in the top half, the Blue Devils gained the lead on a pair of two-out RBI hits in the third. Sophomore Kennie Taylor singled and took second on a wild pitch, setting the tables for classmate Griffin Conine who lined an RBI double into the left center gap. Junior Justin Bellinger tacked on an RBI single up the middle to score Conine and put the Blue Devils on top, 3-2.
Bellinger blasted his second home run in as many games with two outs and a runner on in the fifth, extending the Duke margin 5-2. Bellinger’s 10th career home run left no doubt, easily reaching the upper deck in right field.
Following back-to-back one-out singles in the sixth, Taylor send an RBI double to left and Jimmy Herron lifted a sac fly to center to push the advantage, 7-2.
Duke ran into trouble to start the seventh as a couple errors allowed three unearned runs to cross home. Army benefitted from two singles, two walks and two Duke errors to pull the game close, 7-5.
The Blue Devil bullpen was up to the task the rest of the way, receiving scoreless innings from Blum and Labosky. Labosky needed just four pitches to record his second career save.
Duke was able to tack on an eighth-inning insurance run on pinch hitter Jalen Phillips’ two-out RBI triple to the right field corner. In total, five of Duke’s nine hits came with two outs.
The Blue Devils and the Black Knights meet a second time at the DBAP Saturday, Feb. 25 at 1 p.m. Left-hander Adam Laskey takes the mound opposite fellow lefty Tyler Giovinco on ACC Network Extra.