DURHAM, N.C. – Duke scored three runs early and relied on a solid effort from the Blue Devil pitching staff to edge Princeton 3-1 Friday evening at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Starter James Ziemba (2-1) pitched 5.2 innings of one-run ball before giving way to the bullpen for 3.1 innings of scoreless relief. Junior Jack Labosky had an RBI double and pitched a perfect ninth for his second save of the season.
Duke (4-6) jumped on Princeton (0-1) early with a two-run first. A Jimmy Herron double greeted Princeton right-hander Chad Powers (0-1) before Griffin Conine was hit by a pitch. Catcher Max West’s throw on the Duke double steal escaped third baseman Joseph Flynn, allowing Herron to scamper home. Labosky then doubled inside the left field line to plate Conine for an early 2-0 Blue Devil advantage.
“We had four great at bats to start the ballgame,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “Jimmy [Herron] comes up, gets a good breaking ball that he handled, two-strike double. Griffin [Conine] battles back after being in a two-strike count and gets the HBP. Then Jack [Labosky] comes up with another two-strike hit.”
First baseman Jalen Phillips’ first home run of the season extended the margin, 3-0. Phillips lifted a solo shot into the right field seats for the sixth homer of his collegiate career.
“[Jalen] had a really good at bat in the bottom of second with two outs,” Pollard said. “[He] got in a great count and as we call it ‘cheated the barrel’ to get to a 3-1 fastball and drove a pitch.”
Despite having at least one runner aboard each of the final five frames, Duke was unable to expand its lead.
“We had the runner at third with less than two outs a couple times tonight,” Pollard added. “That’s something that’s got to improve. We had a lot of opportunities to push some more runs across. Credit Princeton. They made key pitches at key times.”
Duke’s pitching staff was up to the task of defending the advantage. Ziemba permitted three singles in the win and only ran into trouble in the sixth. Princeton’s two-out rally began with a base hit, followed by two walks. The Tigers’ lone run crossed home on a wild pitch before senior Karl Blum entered the game and induced a soft fly ball to center field for the frame’s final out.
Despite two Duke errors in the seventh, Blum turned in another scoreless frame.
Graduate student Nick Hendrix followed with a scoreless inning of his own, then gave way to Labosky for the save.
Duke and Princeton take the field for a doubleheader Saturday, March 4 at the DBAP. Game 1 is slated for a 3 p.m., start with Duke left-hander Adam Laskey taking the mound opposite Tiger lefty Keelan Smithers.