DURHAM, N.C. – Duke swept a doubleheader from reigning Ivy League champion Princeton Saturday evening at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Blue Devils capitalized on nine walks and four hit batters to down the Tigers 9-2 in game one, then used four extra-base hits and an 11-strikeout Mitch Stallings outing to defeat Princeton 7-1 in the nightcap.
Sophomore Griffin Conine led the Blue Devils at the plate, reaching base in seven of his nine plate appearances over the two games. Conine went 3-for-5 with four runs scored and two RBI while also drawing three walks and an HBP. Junior Max Miller had a similar line with a 2-for-5 day, three walks and two RBI, while sophomore Jimmy Herron posted a 2-for-6 showing with three runs, two walks and an HBP.
Duke used a total of seven pitchers over the two games. The Blue Devils accumulated 27 strikeouts Saturday, fanning 13 Princeton batters in the first contest and 14 in the second.
Princeton (0-3) led 2-0 early before Duke (6-6) tallied five runs without the aid of a hit or an error in a momentum-shifting third inning.
Princeton starter Keelan Smithers (0-1) had not allowed a hit entering the third, but lost his command. Smithers hit the first two Duke batters before walking three straight to tie the score, 2-2. Reliever Ryan Smith fared little better, issuing two walks and uncorking two wild pitches. At the inning’s conclusion, Duke scored five runs without putting the ball in play.
“It was unique,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “You looked up at the end of the inning and it was 5-2. They had five hits and we had no hits. I told our club afterwards, it was a good job taking advantage of free offense. We haven’t been very good at that the first 10 games of the year, but we’re starting to get better at it. When a team’s going to give baserunners, you’ve got to be disciplined enough to take it.”
The Duke bats broke out for three sixth-inning runs. Herron reached for the third time, drawing a leadoff walk prior to swiping second. Conine drove an RBI single up the middle and Jack Labosky knocked an RBI double off the Blue Monster. Two wild pitches advanced Labosky to third then allowed him to score Duke’s eighth run.
The Blue Devils also manufactured an eighth-inning tally. Sophomore Zack Kone singled, stole second, advanced to third on a groundball and scored on Miller’s sacrifice fly.
The seven-run lead was more than enough for the Blue Devil pitchers. Freshman Adam Laskey (1-1) earned his first collegiate victory and recorded his first quality start. The lefty allowed two runs on eight hits over six innings, striking out seven to just one walk.
Fellow left-handers Luke Whitten and Graeme Stinson followed Laskey’s solid performance. Whitten pitched two scoreless frames with three strikeouts before Stinson fanned the side in his collegiate debut.
Stallings struck out a career-high 11 batters in a five-inning no decision before Duke’s offense totaled five runs in the sixth and two in the seventh to put away the Tigers.
Stallings struck out the side twice and fanned at least two batters in four of his five innings. Overall, he allowed one run on four hits and one walk.
“From the get go of the ballgame, he was executing the change up,” Pollard said. “Producing a lot of swings and misses with the change up. Used his fastball to both sides of the plate. Did a good job of integrating his breaking ball. Produced some really bad swings from their left-handed hitters with his slider. That’s a good sign for us.”
A two-out RBI single in the second put the Tigers up 1-0 prior to Duke’s breakout sixth frame. Princeton starter Ben Gross kept the Blue Devils at bay for five innings. He permitted two hits and struck out eight.
Princeton turned to its bullpen in the sixth and Duke took advantage, greeting reliever Andrew Gnazzo (0-1) with a Herron leadoff triple to the left center gap. Conine drove an RBI single to right, tying the game 1-1. Gnazzo recorded two strikeouts, but four straight Blue Devils reached with two outs to give Duke a 5-2 lead. Miller roped an RBI triple, sophomore Chris Proctor added an RBI single and freshman Erikson Nichols’ first career hit drove in two runs.
“Tremendous starts by both pitchers,” Pollard added. “[Ben] Gross threw great. Mitch [Stallings] threw great. We were able to wait [Gross] out and get him out after five. We did a good job of getting to their bullpen. [Andrew] Gnazzo’s going to be a really good arm for them, but we were able to get in some good counts and sit on the fastball and we didn’t miss it.”
The Blue Devils tacked on a pair the following frame. Conine tripled and scored on a Labosky sac fly. Graduate student Jalen Phillips then drove his second homer of the season into the right field seats.
Graduate student Nick Hendrix pitched two scoreless innings to maintain the lead. Freshman Bill Chillari entered with the bases loaded in the eighth, but recorded Duke’s final five outs to finish the game and preserve the lead.
Duke and Princeton conclude their four-game series at 1 p.m., Sunday, March 5 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Duke right-hander Ryan Day faces off against Princeton righty James Proctor on ACC Network Extra.