DURHAM, N.C. – Shortstop Zack Kone totaled a career-high five RBI including his first career grand slam to lift Duke past Bucknell, 6-4, Saturday afternoon at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Kone finished the day a triple short of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with two runs and five RBI. With Duke (4-2, 0-0 ACC) down 3-0 in the third, Kone drove Bison starter Jeff Gottesman’s first-pitch change up well past the left field wall for the Blue Devils’ first grand slam of the season.
“[Chris] Proctor did a great job of walking to get the bases loaded, so I knew [Gottesman] would really try to be in the zone,” said Kone. “I sat on it and went for it.”
“That’s his coming out party right there,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “[Kone’s] been really close and he’s had some good at bats before that. I want to highlight, he wasn’t just good offensively. He did some pretty impressive things there at the plate, but he was really good in the field, too.”
Following a sixth-inning single, Kone lined an RBI double to put Duke ahead 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth. A double steal later in the eighth provided Duke an insurance run and senior Jack Labosky took care of the rest. Labosky pitched a 1-2-3 top of the ninth for his first save of the season and eighth of his career.
Labosky’s effort followed two solid outings for Duke relievers. Freshman Matt Dockman took over a 4-4 ballgame in the seventh and gave Duke 1.1 scoreless innings before sophomore Matt Mervis (1-0) assumed the mound. With runners at second and third, Mervis struck out Evan Madigan prior to left fielder Jimmy Herron crashing into the Blue Monster for the inning-ending catch on Chuckie Scales’ line drive.
“Matt [Mervis] comes in and picked up a teammate,” Pollard said. “Then Jimmy Herron the next batter picks him up. That’s the sign you have something special; when guys are constantly doing things like that.”
Starter Ryan Day gave the Blue Devils six innings in the no decision. Day allowed four runs on eight hits with two walks and eight strikeouts.
“Workmanlike,” Pollard said. “I think if you ask [Ryan], he probably didn’t have the same stuff that he did last week. Credit Bucknell, they took some good swings. The one thing I was really pleased with was the job he did to get us through six. [Dominic] Toso was his last guy regardless of what happened and he got his guy. That’s the sign of a veteran.”
After Duke shut out Bucknell Friday, the Bison got on the board to start the second Saturday. Luke Hartman laced a two-out double and scored on Madigan’s RBI single.
Bucknell extended its lead to 3-0 with solo homers from Evan Klugerman and JohnPaul Bell in the third, the first two home runs allowed by Day in his collegiate career.
Kone’s grand slam erased the deficit in the bottom half and Duke held the 4-3 advantage until the sixth when Klugerman doubled and scored on Bell’s RBI base hit. Kone’s eighth-inning double then plated the go-ahead run before the Duke shortstop scored the Blue Devils’ final tally on a double steal a batter later.
Duke and Bucknell conclude the series Sunday, Feb. 25 at 1 p.m., on ACC Network Extra. Duke lefty Mitch Stallings takes the mound opposite Bucknell righty Jack Simpson.