DURHAM, N.C. – Griffin Conine’s first-inning grand slam ignited a double-digit outburst for the Blue Devil offense as No. 9 Duke grabbed an 11-2 victory over No. 4 NC State in front of a capacity crowd Sunday afternoon at Jack Coombs Field.
Conine’s eighth home run of the season was one of four extra base hits for Duke (31-10, 13-6 ACC) in Sunday’s series finale. Max Miller cleared the bases with a double in the fifth, Jack Labosky launched a two-run longball to left, and Kennie Taylor chipped in a first-inning triple.
The Blue Devil pitching staff limited NC State (31-8, 15-6 ACC) to two runs on five hits, keeping the Wolfpack to two runs for the second-straight game. Heading into Saturday, NC State had plated at least eight runs in eight straight games.
“This was the best opportunity that we have had all year to show off our toughness in the face of adversity,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “When you’re winning a lot of ballgames, you don’t have a lot of adversity. This is our first time having to deal with a losing streak. We came out and [showed toughness] very well today.”
After missing his past two starts, Ryan Day (3-3) pitched 3.0 innings in a planned split to earn the win. Day allowed one run on two hits while striking out a pair. Sophomore Graeme Stinson came out of the bullpen to toss three innings of his own, yielding just one run on two hits with four strikeouts. Ethan DeCaster and Jack Labosky then allowed one baserunner over the final three innings.
“Ryan [Day] comes out, gives us a quick inning,” Pollard said. "Very efficient, pitching to contact. Really impressed with the job Graeme [Stinson] did there in the middle innings to bridge a gap on a day we knew we were split starting the game. I was very pleased with the way Ethan [DeCaster] and Jack [Labosky] came in and were efficient and didn’t waste pitches.”
With one out in the in the first, Chris Proctor, Zack Kone and Joey Loperfido reached via two singles and a walk to load the bases for Conine who launched a 2-2 pitch into the right field trees for the 4-0 Duke lead.
“Griffin with a two-strike, didn’t-miss-it swing and we made a statement,” Pollard added. “We came out ready to throw punches today metaphorically speaking.”
NC State struck for solo runs in the second and fifth, trimming the margin, 4-2, before Duke exploded for six runs in the fifth. Proctor’s leadoff base hit began the rally, followed by a Kone walk. A sacrifice bunt and intentional walk to Conine loaded the bases yet again. Taylor lifted a sac fly right before Miller drilled a bases-clearing double down the left field line. Labosky delivered the final blow, sending his fifth homer of the season over the left field wall.
“That starts with executing good, fundamental baseball,” Pollard added. “That big inning starts with Kennie Taylor doing the little things which is the sac fly to score the run from third base. [Miller] came up in a big spot and he’s been doing stuff like that all year. Then Jack [Labosky] came up and had a second dagger behind it.”
Proctor finished the day 3-for-5 with three runs scored, crossing home a final time in the sixth on a Loperfido fly ball to right.
Duke steps away from conference action to take on Davidson at 7:05 p.m,. Tuesday, April 24 at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, N.C.