DURHAM, N.C. – Duke clinched the series victory over Army West Point with a 5-1 victory Sunday afternoon at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. A Ryan Day quality start and opportunistic offense gave Duke a lead that relievers Karl Blum and Jack Labosky preserved down the stretch.
The day began as a pitchers’ duel Day (1-1) and Army lefty Daniel Gibbons (0-2). Both pitchers turned in quality starts for their respective teams. Day pitched six complete innings in the win. He allowed one run on four hits while striking out four without walking a batter.
“Day had a tremendous start,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “His mound presence was fantastic. He was down in the zone. We pitch to the bottom of the zone and he did that as effectively as we’ve done all year. Produced a ton of groundball contact.”
Duke’s defense was spotless behind Day while Army totaled four errors to permit three unearned runs in the contest.
“We played defense the past ballgames the way we expect us to play defense,” Pollard added. “[We’re] settling in and finding our rhythm. We won’t always be perfect, but you can continue to expect a good defensive club.”
Duke struck first in the series finale, plating the game’s opening run on back-to-back two-out doubles in the third. Griffin Conine located his fifth double of the season in front of a sliding John McCarthy in left field. Junior Jack Labosky then turned an 0-2 count into a double of his own, driving a pitch to left to score Conine.
“You have to play hard to make your own luck,” Pollard said. “We did that. Griffin Conine flared the ball to left field, was running hard and he turned a single into a double. That allowed for Jack to come up and have a two-strike, two-out RBI hit. When you play that hard and you play the game the right way, breaks tend to go your way.”
Day retired 10 straight Black Knights over the middle innings, allowing Duke to extend its lead in the sixth. A dropped fly ball in left allowed Labosky to take second with one out. Bellinger then drilled a double off the Blue Monster, plating Duke’s second run. A wild pitch then moved Bellinger to third before a Zack Kone sacrifice fly brought him in.
Up 3-0, Duke faced a serious threat to its lead in the seventh. Army began the seventh with three straight hits, including Kris Lindner’s RBI double to right center. With runners on second and third and no outs, Blum took the mound and fanned the next two hitters before Labosky made a tremendous defensive play to get Duke off the field without further damage.
“It was a defining moment for us early in this season,” Pollard said. “The feeling we have as a team when we got off the field right there with the lead preserved is why you do this,” Pollard said. “It’s why I coach, it’s why they play. That was a tremendous competitive moment and a great growing moment.”
Duke punctuated the seventh by adding on a run in the bottom half. Catcher Peter Zyla doubled down the right field line to lead off the inning and ultimately wound up scoring on Army’s fourth error of the contest.
Blum evaded danger in the eighth, generating a pop up with runners at the corners to conclude the scoreless inning.
Duke then manufactured an insurance run in the bottom half to extend the lead, 5-1. Kone was hit by a pitch with one out, took second on a balk, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Jalen Phillips’ RBI fielder’s choice.
Labosky pitched a scoreless ninth to preserve the victory.
Duke plays its fourth game in as many days Monday, Feb. 27, as the Blue Devils welcome Southern California to the DBAP for a 3 p.m., contest on ACC Network Extra.