DURHAM, N.C. – Junior left-hander Mitch Stallings threw seven scoreless innings and the bats broke out late to turn a 1-0 nail biter into a 14-0 Duke shut out against Pittsburgh in the series opener Friday evening at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Duke (16-13, 5-5 ACC) took a one-run lead versus Pitt (11-12, 4-6 ACC) into the sixth before plating four runs in the bottom half. The Blue Devils continued the offensive outpouring with a five-run seventh and four more in the eighth.
Right fielder Griffin Conine blasted a grand slam, Duke’s second in as many games, and finished the night 2-for-4 with five RBI, two runs and a walk. Center fielder Jimmy Herron posted a 2-for-3 outing, including a three-run long ball, while junior Max Miller was 3-for-4 with three runs, a double and an RBI.
The Blue Devils registered a home run for the sixth straight contest and knocked double digit hits for the fourth straight, totaling 13.
Stallings (3-2) turned in a standout performance on the mound, submitting seven scoreless innings. The lefty permitted just two singles and struck out eight, while allowing a mere two Panthers to reach scoring position.
“[Stallings] was really, really tough,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “I thought Mitch settled in and pitched a heckuva ballgame. Couple times went to three-ball counts and was able to force contact. Didn’t buckle when he had runners in scoring position and it was a 1-0 ballgame. Loved the fact he was able to go back out there and give us a clean seventh inning. I can’t say enough about Mitch’s outing.”
Herron and Conine initiated the scoring in the bottom of the first. Herron singled and eventually scored on Conine’s first hit of the game.
“[Stallings] set a tone in the first the way he gave us the 1-2-3 inning,” Pollard said. “When you do that, you capture some momentum for your offense and we were able to capitalize off that with Jimmy’s leadoff at bat, [Zack] Kone executes a hit-and-run and Griffin comes up with a single up the middle.”
Pitt starter Matt Pidich (3-2) found hit rhythm after the first and retired 14 straight Blue Devils following the Conine base knock.
In the bottom of the sixth, Miller broke Pidich’s streak, drilling a double off the Blue Monster. Herron then laid down a bunt which the Pitt pitcher could not corral. Kone also dropped a bunt and Pidich’s throw to home on the fielder’s choice sailed to the backstop. After Conine coaxed a walk, Jack Labosky lined a two-run double into the left field corner before a Michael Smiciklas single extended the lead, 5-0.
“First off, Pidich pitched a great game,” Pollard added. “He was really locked in. It starts with a great leadoff at bat by Max Miller to get that going. Credit Coach Stein; we executed some things in the small ball game to really push some buttons to get our offense clicking and put them on the defensive, speed the game up.”
The Duke bats continued to put on pressure and the first five Blue Devils reached in the seventh, culminating with Conine’s grand slam. In a parallel eighth, Justin Bellinger, Chris Dutra and Miller also notched hits then Herron delivered the deep ball to center field.
Pidich suffered the loss after allowing five runs, four earned, on five hits over five innings. He struck out five and walked one. Second baseman Alex Amos went 2-for-2 with a walk at the plate to pace the Panther offense.
Duke and Pitt meet for game two of the series at 1 p.m., Saturday, April 1. Blue Devil freshman Adam Laskey faces off against Panther redshirt junior Josh Mitchell on ACC Network Extra.