GREENVILLE, N.C. – The Duke baseball team fell, 6-1, to No. 11 East Carolina Wednesday evening in front of a season-best crowd of 4,744 fans at Clark-LeClair Stadium. With the loss, the Blue Devils drop below .500 on the season with an overall record of 14-15, marking a four-game losing streak.
After four scoreless frames to begin the contest, ECU broke through in the fifth, scoring six runs across the fifth and sixth innings with a trio of runs in each frame to take a 6-0 advantage. The two teams would go scoreless across the next two frames of the contest before Duke scratched a run across in the ninth to avoid its second shutout of the season.
Freshman Cooper Stinson (1-2) suffered the loss for the Blue Devils, working 4.2 innings, yielding three earned runs on six hits and four walks while collecting six strikeouts. The trio of freshman Jack Carey, sophomore Bryce Jarvis and junior Eli Herrick covered the final 3.1 frames to close out the contest.
“I thought we pitched well,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “I thought Cooper Stinson pitched well, and I thought Jack Carey really threw the ball well and he deserved a better fate. He got soft contact and I thought he executed three pitches at a really high level. I thought it was one of our best defended games, you can clearly see that (Joey) Loperfido being back in there made a big difference for us in that regard. He played exceptionally well having not played a live game of baseball in over a month.”
The Duke offense was pace by its 3-4-5 hitters, with the middle of the order registering five of the team’s eight hits. The duo of junior Matt Mervis and graduate student Kyle Gallagher contributed two hits apiece, while sophomore Chris Crabtree added one knock. Also posting a multi-hit outing was senior Kennie Taylor, who finished 2-for-5 with the team’s lone RBI.
The Blue Devils stranded a total of 11 runners on base, including five runners in scoring position, while leaving the bases loaded on two separate occasions.
“When we have a runner on third and less than two outs, we have to do a better job of selling out to get the job done in those situations,” Pollard added. “That means adjusting your approach and sometimes taking what the guy is giving you to put the baseball in play, and we didn’t do that tonight. We had a couple of other opportunities.”
East Carolina struck first in the midweek matchup, scoring three runs in the fifth inning to grab the advantage. With one down in the inning, the Pirates used a solo home run to left field to cross the game’s first run. The frame continued with a walk in the next at-bat, followed by a two-out double to right field to place runners on first and second. A wild pitch allowed the inning’s second run to score, before a RBI single up the middle plated a third run to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead after five innings of play.
ECU returned in the home half of the sixth to put up another three-spot and extend its lead. A one-out walk followed by a bunt single placed runners on first and second. The Pirates used a single through the right side in the next at-bat to bring one across. After a groundout scored another run for ECU, a single through the left side crossed the frame’s third and final run to push East Carolina’s lead to 6-0 after six full.
The Blue Devils plated their lone run of the contest in the ninth. Sophomore Michael Rothenberg began the frame with a leadoff single through the left side before advancing into scoring position on a groundout. One out later, Taylor lined a RBI single to center field to score one and make it a 6-1 contest, the eventual final.
After five straight contests on the road, Duke returns home this weekend for a three-game series with Pittsburgh. The Blue Devils and Panthers are set for a 6 p.m. first pitch in Friday’s series opener, while Saturday’s and Sunday’s games are both slated for 1 p.m. starts at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
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