DURHAM, N.C. – John Malloy went 4-for-5 with a home run and two RBI to lead La Salle to a 5-2 win over Duke Friday afternoon at Jack Coombs Field on the opening day of the college baseball season.
Malloy had hits in his first four at bats, including a solo home run in the third inning that was part of back-to-back shots for the Explorers (1-0) with teammate TJ Chism. Malloy was a triple short of the cycle, tagging a pair of singles, a double and a home run.
La Salle designated hitter Marc Schoch also sent in a pair of runs as part of a three-run fifth inning that proved to be the difference for the Explorers. Starter Drew Gerhart (1-0) held Duke (0-1) to two runs and six hits through five complete innings to earn the win before handing the ball over to left-hander Christian Schulz, who finished the game. Schulz gave up just two hits and struck out four batters in closing out the final four frames on the way to his first save of the season.
Duke outfielder Jeremy Gould mashed a solo home run in the third inning with one of his two hits, giving him a home run in a season opener for the second straight year. Sophomore shortstop Jake Lemmerman also sent in a run with an RBI single, and catcher Matt Williams had a two-hit day as well.
Duke starter Christopher Manno (0-1) held La Salle to two runs for his first four innings, but took the loss after leaving the game in the fifth inning with two men on base. Both men scored on ensuing singles from Malloy and Schoch that broke a 2-2 tie and put La Salle ahead for the rest of the game. Junior reliever Michael Ness tossed the next 3.2 frames for Duke and scattered three hits and a run before giving way to senior Kyle Butler, who tossed a hitless ninth.
Manno struck out the first batter he faced before giving up a two-out single to Malloy and a walk to cleanup hitter Chism. He got himself out of the jam on the next play though, when he fired to first base and picked off Chism to end the inning.
Duke had a chance to take the lead in the second, but stranded Ryan McCurdy at third base after the junior third baseman ripped a double down the left field line. McCurdy would advance to third base on a wild pitch, but got no further after Malloy ran down a hard-hit fly ball in center field that came off the bat of Duke’s cleanup hitter, Nate Freiman.
The Blue Devils returned the favor in the next inning, stranding a pair of Explorers on base after Schoch and Jon Gyles opened the inning with a pair of singles. Schoch got no further than second base, however, after Manno struck out Jim Tarabocchia, forced a fly out to left and a foulout to Freiman at first base to end the inning.
Lemmerman gave Duke its first run of the season with an opposite field RBI single that drove in Williams from second base. The base knock came after Williams opened the inning with a single of his own and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
Duke’s lead did not last long, however, after Malloy and Chism mashed back-to-back homers on consecutive pitches in the top of the third to move La Salle ahead 2-1. Both long balls came with two outs and were pulled to roughly the same spot over the right field wall. Manno shook off the mistakes though, and fanned Schoch to end the inning, giving him three strikeouts through his first three innings of work.
Gould flashed his power as well in the bottom of the third for the Blue Devils, hammering Duke’s first homer of the season down the left field line to tie the score at 2-2. The towering shot came with two outs and was the fifth career shot for Gould.
After a scoreless fourth inning in which Manno retired the side in order, La Salle reclaimed the lead on an RBI single through the left side by Malloy and a two-run single from Schoch. Malloy’s base knock drove in Zack Feierstein from third base after the La Salle catcher opened the inning with a double down the left field line. Manno was pulled in the inning in favor of Michael Ness, who inherited runners at first and third with one out. Ness came in to face Malloy, who ripped his second pitch through the left side for a run-scoring single. Schoch came up two batters later and hammered a full-count single to right field to send in two runs before Ness got out of the inning after fielding a ground ball in front of the plate and throwing to first for the third out.
Ness had a much better go-round in his next inning, retiring the side in order in the sixth with a pair of strikeouts. He used just 12 pitches in the frame and needed just three to strike out Feierstein, the last of which was a fastball that painted the outside corner.
With a 5-2 lead in hand heading into the bottom of the sixth, Gerhart handed the ball over to left-handed teammate Christian Schulz. Schulz gave up a base hit to Williams – his second single of the game – but got out of the inning unharmed to take the game into the seventh inning. Schulz was even more effective in the seventh, retiring the side on just nine pitches.
Ness stayed on the mound into the bottom of the seventh for Duke and held the Explorers scoreless through three straight innings to keep Duke into the game. The 6-4, 210 pound junior retired the side in order in the sixth and eighth innings and gave up just one hit during that span.
Schulz, meanwhile, stayed on the mound had yet another effective inning to keep La Salle’s 5-2 lead intact. Gould got ahold of one of his fastballs on the inner half of the plate and lifted it into deep left field, but Gyles was able to run it down and pull it in on the warning track for the first out. Freiman then came to the plate and ripped a ground ball to the right side that Chism was able to knock down, but could not come up with in time to get the out at first. With a man on first and one out, Schulz got some help from his defense when third baseman Justin Handler fielded a ground ball and fired to second base to start an inning-ending double play.
Senior Kyle Butler took over pitching duties for Duke in the top of the ninth and got through the inning with just 12 pitches. With Duke down to its last inning, Schulz got the next three batters he faced out on nine pitches to end the game and pick up the save.
Duke and La Salle will continue the four-game series on Saturday with a double header beginning at noon at Jack Coombs Field. Right-hander Andrew Wolcott (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will take the mound for Duke in game one opposite La Salle righty Cody Weiss (0-0, 0.00). Game two will feature Duke right-hander Jonathan Foreman (0-0, 0.00) and La Salle southpaw TJ Chism (0-0, 0.00).