DURHAM, N.C. – Solid pitching and a five-run sixth helped Duke even its series with Wake Forest Saturday at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Blue Devils bested the Demon Deacons, 7-3, behind freshman Adam Laskey’s quality start and a balanced effort at the plate.
Laskey (2-1) kept the Demon Deacons off the board in five of his six innings to secure the win. The freshman southpaw yielded three runs on five hits with five strikeouts and two walks. After Stuart Fairchild’s three-run homer gave Wake Forest a 3-2 margin in the third, Laskey battled for three shutout innings, retiring the final seven batters he faced.
“That’s why we won the ballgame, because [Laskey] was tough enough and competitive enough after a three-run inning to go back out and grind and put zeroes on the board three consecutive innings against a really good offensive team,” said head coach Chris Pollard. Really proud of him. He continues to grow week to week.”
Laskey’s effort ultimately allowed Duke (11-10, 3-2 ACC) to regain the advantage in the sixth. The Blue Devils plated their five runs on two Wake Forest (14-6, 3-2 ACC) errors and four hits, including two-run doubles from both Justin Bellinger and Jack Labosky.
Graduate student Nick Hendrix faced the minimum in both the seventh and eighth before giving way to Labosky, who added bookend punchouts in a 1-2-3 ninth to preserve the victory.
Seven Blue Devils registered a hit in the contest, led by Jimmy Herron, Michael Smiciklas and Peter Zyla with two apiece. Labosky finished the day with three RBI while Bellinger drove in two. Sophomore Griffin Conine reached base in three of his five plate appearances with a first-inning single and two walks.
Duke got to Wake Forest starter Donnie Sellers (2-1) in the opening inning for two runs on five hits. Herron slid a leadoff double inside the left field line, reaching to start the ballgame for the seventh time in the past eight contests. Conine’s single set the tables for a Labosky sacrifice fly prior to two infield singles to score Duke’s second run.
Laskey day began with two scoreless innings. Third-inning leadoff walks haunted Laskey after Stuart Fairchild’s seventh homer of the year scored both, giving Wake Forest a 3-2 advantage with one swing of the bat.
Fairchild’s long ball would be it for the potent Wake Forest bats against the Blue Devils Saturday. Duke pitchers faced the minimum each of the final five innings to provide the offense time to turn a one-run deficit into a four-run lead.
Zyla singled to begin the sixth innocently enough before Wake Forest’s first error of the inning allowed Zack Kone to also reach base. Bellinger proceeded to drive in both, roping an opposite field double. In an 0-2 hole after a Max Miller sacrifice bunt, Herron fouled off a few pitches before lining an RBI single to left to keep the rally going and Labosky’s two-run, two-out double provided the knockout punch.
“We took some advantage of some free offense,” Pollard added. “We also did a really good job two strikes and we did a really good job with two outs. Jimmy Herron comes up with a big two-strike hit. Obviously the two-strike, two-out dagger by Jack Labosky was huge to give us some separation. Then [Hendrix] and [Labosky] did a terrific job out of the bullpen to just go right at guys.”
Duke and Wake Forest take the field at 1 p.m., Sunday, March 19 in the rubber match on ACC Network Extra. Duke righty Ryan Day toes the rubber against Wake Forest’s Connor Johnstone.