DURHAM, N.C. – No. 13 Duke claimed the series victory over No. 4 North Carolina, defeating the Tar Heels, 5-2, Saturday afternoon at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The win not only clinched the Blue Devils’ first series victory over UNC since 2014 but also gave Duke its school-record 17th ACC win of the season.
“Guys just competing,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “Competing with two strikes. Competing with two outs. We’ve had some of our best at bats this series so far with two-strikes and two outs. We’ve done a pretty decent job of taking advantage of some free offense, but ultimately it’s going to come down to timely hitting. Who gets the hit when it counts? We’ve done a good job of that through these first two ballgames.”
Ryan Day (5-2) began a solid outing for the Duke pitching staff, turning in his sixth quality start of the season. Day yielded one run on six hits over six complete, striking out three and walking two. Day faced some adversity early in the game, but found his rhythm in the middle innings, retiring the final seven batters he faced.
“We had to make some plays early,” Pollard said. “[Day] was maybe a batter or two away from us maybe getting a guy up in the pen, but was able to make a pitch here, make a pitch there. Then he went out and got that shutdown inning in the fourth. He got stronger to the point where we even debated the potential that he could go back out there in the seventh. His fifth and sixth innings were the two best innings he threw all day.”
Bryce Jarvis worked a scoreless seventh before Jack Labosky recorded the final six outs to preserve the win. Labosky’s scoreless inning streak ended at 29.1 after UNC struck for a run in the ninth, but the Duke closer got a groundout to the mound to end the game.
“Bryce was really effective in his seventh,” Pollard said. “In hindsight, Jack was probably a one inning guy today,” Pollard added. “We asked him to get two. He went out there and got that second inning on guts and heart. Just kind of willed it to happen.”
North Carolina totaled 10 hits and had at least one baserunner in all but two innings, but Blue Devils consistently evaded damage and the Tar Heels left 12 on base over the course of the game. Duke also turned three double plays, bringing their ACC-leading total to 48 on the year.
Chris Proctor walked and scored in the first on Zack Kone’s RBI double to give Duke an early 1-0 lead. Proctor reach base in four of his five plate appearance with two hits, two walks and two runs scored.
UNC countered immediately with Cody Roberts’ RBI base knock the following inning. The Tar Heels loaded the bases before Day fanned Kyle Datres to end the threat.
Duke’s biggest offensive inning came in the third when four singles led to three runs. Proctor’s base hit got it started but two quick outs appeared to nullify the leadoff baserunner. The Blue Devils then put together three-straight, two-out singles, starting with Griffin Conine, continuing with Max Miller and culminating with Kennie Taylor.
Labosky scored Duke’s fifth run after singling in the sixth. Walks to Jimmy Herron and Proctor loaded the bases before a wild pitch allowed Labosky to scamper home.
Duke turned in a double play in both the eighth and ninth innings to keep the North Carolina comeback at bay. Brandon Riley added a two-out RBI single in the ninth before Zack Gahagan grounded out to end the game.
Duke and North Carolina conclude the series at 1 p.m., Sunday, May 13 on ACC Network Extra. The Blue Devils are set to recognize eight seniors prior to their regular season home finale.