DURHAM, N.C. – Early offense combined with a stellar pitching effort carried the Duke baseball team to an 8-1 victory Saturday afternoon at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. With the win, the Blue Devils move to 2-0 in the young campaign, and clinch the series victory over the Mountain Hawks.
Duke jumped out early, scoring seven runs across the second, third and fourth innings to build a lead that would prove to be too much for Lehigh. The offense was led by multi-hit efforts from juniors Erikson Nichols and Chase Cheek, and freshman Ethan Murray, with each player totaling two hits apiece and one run scored. Cheek also added a team-high tying two RBI, matching sophomore Joey Loperfido and senior co-captain Kennie Taylor.
On the mound, sophomore Bryce Jarvis, making the sixth start of his career, provided the Blue Devils with an impressive outing. The Franklin, Tenn., native recorded a career-high nine strikeouts across 4.0 innings of one-hit baseball, allowing one unearned run. The duo of freshman Jack Carey and graduate transfer Ben Gross combined to hold the Mountain Hawks scoreless across the final 5.0 frames to seal the Duke victory.
“I thought Bryce Jarvis threw the baseball really well,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “His stuff was really live early. Bryce is a tremendous competitor. I’ve been really impressed with the way his stuff continues to tick up, and now it’s just a matter of building his stamina to hold that a little bit longer.”
The Blue Devils struck first in Saturday’s matchup, plating four runs in the bottom of the second to gain the early lead. The four-run rally began with a one-out single from Nichols, before advancing to second on a passed ball. One out later, Cheek delivered his first hit of the new campaign with a RBI single to center field, crossing the game’s first run.
The inning continued with an infield single from Murray, marking the freshman’s first career hit to place runners on first and second for the Blue Devils. Loperfido capitalized on the opportunity, ripping a RBI single to add another run for Duke. Taylor capped the inning’s scoring with a RBI double to right field, scoring two for the Blue Devils to set the tally at 4-0 after two innings of play.
Lehigh responded with a run of their own in the third. With two down in the inning, the Mountain Hawks used a walk and a stolen base to place a runner in scoring position. In the next at-bat, a Blue Devil fielding miscue allowed one run to cross to make it a 4-1 contest.
Duke answered back in the very next frame with a pair of runs to extend its lead. Sophomore Chris Crabtree led things off with a walk, followed by a single through the right side from Michael Rothenberg to place runners on first and second. After Rudy Maxwell reached on a hit-by-pitch to load the bases, Cheek recorded his second hit of the afternoon with a RBI single up the middle to score one. A bases-loaded walk brought home another run for the Blue Devils to increase their lead to 6-1.
Graduate transfer Kyle Gallagher led things off with a walk in the fourth, before Nichols collected his second hit of the day to put runners on the corners. A wild pitch in the next at-bat allowed Gallagher to cross, making it a 7-1 ballgame in favor of the Blue Devils.
Duke added a single tally in the eighth to set the score at 8-1, the eventual final score.
Saturday’s win marked Pollard’s 200th career win at Duke, making him only the third head coach in school history to reach the milestone. Pollard owns a record of 200-146 during his time in Durham, and is the third-winningest coach in Blue Devil history.
“It’s been a blast to be here for 200 wins, I hope we have way more than 200 to go,” Pollard added. “It’s a fun university and a fun athletic department. I’m really proud of our team and our program.”
The Blue Devils go for the series sweep in Sunday’s game three, which is scheduled for a 1 p.m. first pitch. Duke will look to freshman right-hander Cooper Stinson in the matchup, while Lehigh will counter with a sophomore right-hander in Matt Svanson.