DURHAM, N.C. – A five-run explosion in the third inning, highlighted by a three-run home run from graduate student Kyle Gallagher, pushed the Duke baseball team’s winning streak to four games to begin the 2019 season with a 7-3 victory against Davidson (3-1) Tuesday at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The Blue Devils improved to 4-0, the program’s best mark to start a year since the 2008 team began 10-0. Duke’s pitching staff has yielded just seven runs in 2019, tied with the 1908 squad for the third fewest through four games in program history.
On the mound for Duke, junior Bill Chillari (1-0) went the first 3.2 innings, allowing just two base runners, on a walk and error, and striking out four in the winning effort. Senior Hunter Davis tossed the next 2.1 frames, yielding one run on one hit, one walk and three strikeouts. Graduate student Ben Gross covered 2.0 innings, allowing two runs on two hits, a walk and a hit by pitch to go along with five strikeouts. Sophomore Thomas Girard worked the ninth, hitting one Davidson batter for the only base runner and striking out a pair.
After a quiet first two-and-a-half-innings, Duke struck for five runs in the bottom of the third for a 5-0 advantage. Sophomore Chase Cheek led off with a walk and stole second before scoring on a double down the left-field line from freshman Rudy Maxwell. Classmate Ethan Murray followed with a single to center that plated Maxwell. Davidson registered the first two outs of the frame with a fielder’s choice and pickoff, but senior Kennie Taylor kept the inning alive with a single to left field. Sophomore Chris Crabtree drew a walk to place runners on first and second for Gallagher, who blasted a three-run shot to left center, marking the first long ball for Duke this season.
The Blue Devils pushed across another run in the bottom of the fourth to make it a 6-0 edge. With one out and Cheek on first following a fielder’s choice, he stole second. Maxwell walked and Murray whiffed, but sophomore Joey Loperfido singled to right to drive in Cheek.
Davidson registered its first threat, hit and run in the top of the sixth to cut the deficit to 6-1. Alex Mardiney walked, Max Bazin tallied Davidson’s first hit on a single through the right side and Eric Jones was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Davis rebounded on the mound with a pop out, sacrifice fly and fielder’s choice to end the frame.
“In the sixth and the eighth, we had an opportunity there where they could have put up a big crooked number on the board,” head coach Chris Pollard said. “Tip of the hat to Hunter Davis, he managed to play through that with only one run scored. When you load the bases with nobody out and you only allow one runner to cross the plate, you almost recapture momentum because it’s so deflating for an offense. You feel like when you load the bases with nobody out, you’re almost certainly going to have a few runs cross.”
In the eighth, the Wildcats pushed across two more runs to make it a 6-3 contest. Bazin singled and Jones walked to begin the frame. A fielder’s choice put Bazin on third with one out and Ruben Fontes at first with both scoring on a double to left center by Brett Centracchio, who plated all three Davidson runs on the day. Gross bounced back with consecutive strikeouts and to close the inning.
Duke got a run back in the bottom of the eighth to make the 7-3 final. Murray led off with a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch, went to third on a strikeout and scored on a one-out single to center from Crabtree.
Davidson’s Sam Reinertsen took the loss, throwing 2.2 innings and giving up four runs on three hits and two walks. Austin Leonard yielded the final two runs with four hits, a walk and one strikeout in 1.1 frames. Dan Speer and Pete Bloomberg combined to throw the final 4.0 frames, limiting Duke to one run on four hits and a walk with four whiffs.
The Blue Devils finished with 11 hits, with every starter contributing at least one knock to the offensive effort. Gallagher and Taylor each posted multi-hit outings, each collecting two hits apiece, while Gallagher added a team-high three RBI.
Duke returns to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Friday to begin a three-game series against Northwestern. First pitch on Friday is set for 4 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday starting at 1 p.m.
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