DURHAM, N.C. – A solid start from junior Adam Laskey paired with home runs from graduate student Kyle Gallagher, freshman Ethan Murray and sophomore Michael Rothenberg carried the Duke baseball team past N.C. Central 6-2 on Tuesday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Blue Devils have now won 11 of their last 12 games and improve to 25-16 overall this season.
“I’m proud of Adam (Laskey),” said head coach Chris Pollard. “I think each time out he continues to take the next step forward. You saw it today, he pitched exclusively in the stretch, which I think was a savvy move to try and make some adjustments and get some feel back. I think he did that. There were still some misses there, but when he had to execute, he was able to get back in, which is a sign for me that he’s getting closer and closer to being where he wants to be.”
Laskey turned in his best outing of the campaign, blanking the Eagles through his four hitless innings, yielding three walks and two hit batters while striking out a trio. He picked up his first win of the season to move to 1-0. Junior Eli Herrick covered the next two frames, allowing a pair of runs on three hits and four whiffs. Freshman Aaron Beasley recorded two outs with a hit and walk before giving way to sophomore Bryce Jarvis, who did not allow a base runner in his 1.1 innings and fanned two. Sophomore Thomas Girard tossed the ninth, gave up a double and recorded a strikeout en route to his team-leading seventh save of the campaign.
Murray, Gallagher and junior Erikson Nichols each contributed multiple-hit performances to pace the offense with Gallagher driving in two of Duke’s runs and Murray scoring a pair. Murray is now tied for second on the team with 12 multiple-hit outings this season.
The Blue Devils took an early 2-0 lead on a two-run homer from Gallagher in the first. After a leadoff double from sophomore Joey Loperfido, a pop out and lineout set the stage for Gallagher’s shot just over the wall in center field to give Duke the two-run cushion.
Duke pushed home another tally in the bottom of the second as Murray led off with a double and scored on a Loperfido fielder’s choice with the bases loaded.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Blue Devils made it a 4-0 advantage as Murray started the frame with a long ball over the wall in left.
N.C. Central cut the deficit to 4-2 in the top of the fifth with a two-out rally. The Eagles registered their first hit of the contest with a two-out single to right field from Trey Maslin. Corey Joyce followed with his team-leading fifth home run of the season. Carter Williams extended the rally with a double down the left-field line, but Herrick rebounded with a groundout to end the threat.
Duke scored once in the seventh to push the lead back to three runs at 5-2. Loperfido led off with a walk, stole second, advanced to third on a fly out and came home when the throw to third base bounced away.
The Blue Devils dented the scoreboard for the final time in the bottom of the eighth on a two-out solo home run to right field from Rothenberg.
N.C. Central went with a full-staff outing on the pitching mound with five hurlers, none throwing more than a three innings. Chris Kernen (4-3) took the loss, tossing the first inning and allowing two runs on two hits. Andrew King went two innings, giving up an unearned run on two hits and two whiffs. Caleb McRoy went the bulk of the frames, throwing three, and surrendering a run on two hits, a walk and five whiffs. Brendan Bell and Ryan Decker each threw an inning and gave up a run to complete the pitching effort.
Duke returns to the field this weekend with a three-game series at Boston College. Game one is set for Friday at 6 p.m. Saturday’s contest will begin at 2 p.m. with the Sunday finale at 1 p.m.
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