DURHAM, N.C. – Junior left fielder Michael Smiciklas lifted a grand slam as part of Duke’s eight-run third inning that propelled the Blue Devils past Davidson, 8-6, Tuesday evening at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Smiciklas sent Wildcat starter Josh Hudson’s 3-1 offering half a dozen rows into the right field seats, giving Duke (14-13) a 7-0 lead. The Blue Devils scored eight runs in the third, then held off Davidson (11-12) down the stretch to capture the midweek victory.
The grand slam was one of three hits for Smiciklas, who finished a triple short of the cycle. Shortstop Zack Kone, designated hitter Peter Zyla and second baseman Max Miller contributed two hits each to help Duke surpass double-digit hits for the 13th time this season.
In his first career start, freshman Matt Mervis (1-1) tossed three shutout innings. Mervis allowed just one walk and struck out three. After the Wildcats clawed back to within two runs, junior Jack Labosky pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his third save of the year.
“I thought [Mervis] pitched great,” said head coach Chris Pollard “Each inning got better than the previous inning. He threw three pitches for strikes. Fastball had some electricity to it.”
An Erikson Nichols third-inning leadoff single began a cavalcade of Duke baserunners that resulted in an 8-0 Blue Devil advantage at the frame’s conclusion. The first nine Duke batters reached either via hit or walk. Jimmy Herron began the scoring with an RBI double, followed by Kone’s two-run base knock. After two walks loaded the bases, Smiciklas elevated the bases clearing blast to knock Hudson from the game. A Max Miller RBI double then capped the eight-run inning.
“We had good swings,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “We were on time with some fastballs and we took some free offense. Then Smiciklas has the big 3-1 grand slam. [He] was on time with his pitch. I liked that we didn’t stop after that. We managed to push another run across in that inning. Pete [Zyla] got the inning started right back up after the pitching change by getting to first base and Max [Miller] drives him home.”
Hudson (1-2) took the loss, conceding seven runs on eight hits over two innings.
Davidson would use nine arms out of the bullpen to allow three Duke hits the rest of the way and enabling the Wildcats to score six unanswered runs.
“We continued to take good swings,” Pollard said. “We had some situations where we could’ve scored guys and didn’t.”
Designated hitter Brett Centracchio launched a three-run fifth-inning homer and left fielder Justin Lebek tallied a two-run long ball the next stanza. Davidson trimmed the margin, 8-6, when Lebek dunked a two-out eighth-inning RBI single into left.
Labosky allowed one single in an otherwise blemish free ninth to complete Duke’s victory.
The Blue Devils host North Carolina A&T in the second of its two midweek contests Wednesday, March 29. First pitch is set for 6 p.m., on ACC Network Extra.