DURHAM, N.C. – In its first ranked matchup of the season, the No. 24 Duke baseball team used a five-run opening inning to shut down No. 14 East Carolina, 7-2, at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Tuesday evening. Freshman Cooper Stinson and a trio of relievers limited the Pirates to just four hits in snapping Duke’s 17-game losing streak to East Carolina (12-6).
“I was really proud of our club,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “Cooper Stinson gave us a really good start. I told our team that I thought the play Chase (Cheek) made to start the ballgame was a big moment because it allowed Cooper to get settled in. I thought the job that Cooper did after we scored five in the first to go out and give us a shutout inning in the second was great. What a job by Kyle Salley with those four outs that he gave us in the fifth and sixth. Hunter (Davis) and Thomas (Girard) just kind of did what they’ve been doing all year.”
The Blue Devils’ offense was paced by freshman RJ Schreck’s one-for-two performance with a pair of runs batted in, the first two RBI of his career, and two-hit performances from rookies Rudy Maxwell and Ethan Murray.
Duke upped its overall record to 12-5 and improved to 8-3 at home this season. The Blue Devils now have 12 wins through 17 games in consecutive years (14-3 in 2018) for the first time since 2010 (12-5) and 2011 (13-4).
On the mound for Duke, Stinson covered the first 4.2 innings and yielded two unearned runs on two hits, four walks, two hit by pitches and two strikeouts. Freshman Kyle Salley (1-0) earned his first career win, going 1.1 frames of one-hit ball. He also fanned three. Senior Hunter Davis shut down the next two innings, giving up just one hit and one walk and fanning two, while sophomore Thomas Girard worked the ninth and did not allow a base runner.
After stranding a pair of Pirates in the top of the first, Duke broke the game open early with a five-run bottom of the frame. Consecutive one-out singles and a hit by pitch loaded the bases for junior Erikson Nichols, who singled to right center to plate the first run of the contest. Junior Matt Mervis followed with a fielder’s choice that drove in a run to put the Blue Devils ahead 2-0. With two outs, Murray punched an RBI single through the right side and Schreck delivered the final two runs of the frame with a double to right center. A strikeout ended the inning.
East Carolina got one back in the top of the third with the help of a Duke throwing error to cut the deficit down to 5-1. Ryder Giles led off being hit by a pitch and Bryant Packard followed with an infield single to put runners on first and second with no outs. Turner Brown hit a ground ball to second baseman Nichols, who stepped on second for the force, but the throw to first got away, allowing Giles to score. Stinson got out of trouble with consecutive fly outs.
The Pirates added another run to the scoreboard in the top of the fifth to make it a 5-2 contest. Giles was again hit by a pitch and Packard walked to put two on with no outs. A passed ball moved Giles to third, but Stinson induced a double play lineout from Brown. Another walk left runners on the corners with two outs. Alec Burleson singled to left field to plate Giles before a strikeout ended the threat.
Duke tallied another run in the bottom of the seventh to take a 6-2 lead. After senior Kennie Taylor’s fielder’s choice put him on first with one out, a groundout moved him to second. Maxwell came through with his second single of the game, this one to right field to score Taylor and push Duke’s advantage to four.
East Carolina tried to rally in the eighth, but Davis slammed the door to preserve the four-run advantage. Spencer Brickhouse led off with a single. After a strikeout and fly out, a walk put two on with two down. Davis responded with a strikeout looking to cancel the threat.
After the hold, the Blue Devils tacked on their final run in the bottom of the eighth for the 7-2 final. With one out, Murray singled through the right side, stole second and came home on graduate student Kyle Gallagher’s double to right center.
Gavin Williams (1-2) took the loss for the Pirates, pitching the first inning and allowing five runs on five hits and a hit by pitch with one strikeout. Jake Kuchmaner went the next 5.2 frames and held Duke to one run on one hit and three walks while fanning six. Evan Voliva threw the next two-thirds of an inning, surrendering a run on three hits with two strikeouts. Giles recorded the final two outs.
The Blue Devils return to ACC play this weekend with a three-game series versus No. 13 Louisville. First pitch on Friday is slated for 4 p.m. with a Saturday’s and Sunday’s first pitches at 1 p.m. from Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
For more information on Duke baseball, follow the Blue Devils on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram by searching for “DukeBaseball”. You can also find all-access coverage of all Duke athletic programs on SnapChat by searching for “dukeathletics”.