DURHAM, N.C. – The Blue Devils homered for the fifth straight game and received a quality start from freshman Graeme Stinson to defeat North Carolina A&T, 10-2, in midweek action Wednesday evening at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Sophomore Griffin Conine and junior Jack Labosky went deep both for the fifth time this season to provide Duke (15-13) early offense. After North Carolina A&T (11-12) trimmed the margin, 4-2, the Blue Devils responded with a five-run sixth.
The Blue Devil pitching staff amassed 14 strikeouts while Duke batters totaled 10 hits, struck out just once and drew four walks.
“We’ve really hammered the point home about being selective and getting our pitch,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “We did that tonight. When we do that, we get some free offense, but we also get the type of loud contact we’re looking for because we’re hitting our pitch and not expanding out zone.”
After a dicey Sunday outing, Stinson (3-1) tossed six solid innings Wednesday, good for his first career quality start. The 6-4 left-hander allowed two runs – one earned – on three hits. He struck out eight and issued just two walks.
“It was great to see Graeme expand out,” Pollard said. “High strike percentages and was able to throw a lot of fastballs. The one thing I was excited about, in the fifth and the sixth, he had to go to something else. It was the third time through the lineup, guys had seen that good fastball a couple of times and he used his changeup, then he had to go to the slider. He really had to pitch those last two innings to get off the field.”
“Can’t say enough about the job our bullpen did of pitching with the lead,” Pollard added.
In the first, Conine knocked N.C. A&T starter Matt Stanley’s pitch over the right field wall following a one-out walk to junior Max Miller. Labosky followed suit two innings later, peppering Diamond View II’s brick exterior with a two-run blast after a Conine one-out walk.
Stanley (0-1) allowed two runs on two hits in one inning of work to suffer the loss.
Stinson faced the minimum through three before the Aggies scored a run on Jarrett Norman’s two-out RBI single in the fourth. N.C. A&T halved the margin, 4-2, with an unearned sixth-inning tally. Left fielder Greg White laid down a bunt single, advanced two bases on an errant pickoff throw and scampered home on a wild pitch before Stinson fanned Perry Hunt to conclude the frame.
Duke responded with authority in the bottom half, plating five runs on five hits. Labosky’s leadoff double found a gap in right center and Michael Smiciklas drove an RBI single up the middle, one of two hits for the Duke left fielder to extend his current hit streak to 10 straight games. Sophomore Jimmy Herron smoked a two-run double down the left field line and Miller notched an RBI single, resulting in a 9-2 lead.
“That was really good baseball,” Pollard said. “[N.C. A&T] closed it to a two-run ballgame. That’s a ballgame that’s very much in striking distance. It was a great job by our offense to not only have an answer but have a big answer in the bottom half.”
The Blue Devils tacked on a 10th and final run the next stanza. Sophomore Chris Proctor lifted his second sac fly of the ballgame to plate Labosky, who reached via leadoff single.
Duke remains at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park this weekend, hosting Pittsburgh in a three-game series Friday-Sunday on ACC Network Extra.