DURHAM, N.C. – Duke came away with the 6-1 victory over Princeton Sunday afternoon at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park to complete the four-game weekend sweep of the Tigers.
Duke (7-6) received a second straight quality start from right-hander Ryan Day (2-1) and put up four runs in the third to take control of Sunday’s contest.
Day scattered seven hits over six shutout innings while recording five strikeouts to one walk in his second consecutive win.
“He grinded, he competed, he was tough,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “He didn’t have his best stuff today. A lot that is because of us. Eighteen innings in the field, and then to turn around and make a start on a Sunday, that’s hard to do. He did it really well. Showed a lot of competitive fire. Showed a lot of toughness. Made pitches when he needed to. He continues to grow each time out.”
Five of Duke’s seven hits came in five straight at bats, part of a four-run Blue Devil third inning. Duke tacked on two seventh-inning runs for a comfortable margin heading to the final two frames.
The Blue Devils received great production from the bottom of the order as 7-8-9 hitters Zack Kone, Erikson Nichols and Kennie Taylor combined for five hits, five runs and two RBI. Kone had two hits, Nichols belted a pair of doubles and Taylor delivered a key two-run double to break open the third-inning scoring.
“We got really good production out of our 7-8-9 hole,” Pollard said. “When you get that type of production out of the bottom third of your lineup, you have a chance to be good.”
Princeton (0-4) notched the first five hits of the ballgame but Duke struck for the contest’s first six runs. In the third, Day was able to keep the Tigers off the board before the first six Blue Devil batters reached to start the bottom half, ultimately resulting in four runs. Kone beat out an infield single to start the rally prior to back-to-back doubles off the bats of Nichols and Taylor. Herron and Conine continued the rally, each with a base hit, and Duke’s final third-inning run crossed home on a Max Miller sac fly.
In his collegiate debut, Princeton starter James Proctor (0-1) suffered the loss despite throwing 1-2-3 frames in four of his six innings. Proctor permitted four runs on five hits, striking out four and walking a pair.
“Credit [Proctor],” Pollard said. “Making his first collegiate start, he really pitched well. He’s got a little bit of cut to his fastball and the first time through the order, we couldn’t adjust to it. The bottom part of our lineup got us going. We just strung together good at bats. When we do that, we have a chance to put crooked numbers on the board.”
Nichols doubled a second time to leadoff the seventh and Taylor walked to put the first two men aboard. Three wild pitches in the inning allowed both Blue Devils to score.
Up 6-0, Duke turned to Karl Blum, Luke Whitten and Matt Mervis for an inning of relief each. Princeton’s lone run came in the eighth after Paul Tupper walked and made it around the base paths on a couple wild pitches.
Duke has two midweek games prior to the start of ACC play this coming weekend. The Blue Devils travel to Liberty Tuesday, March 7 prior to a Wednesday, March 8 meeting with Mount St. Mary’s at the DBAP.