DURHAM, N.C. – Andrew Wolcott scattered two runs and seven hits over 7.0 innings to lead Duke to a 9-2 series-clinching win over Boston College Saturday afternoon at Jack Coombs Field.
Wolcott (6-3), who was switched back to his Saturday spot in the pitching rotation for the first time in three weeks, earned his fourth ACC win of the season. Wolcott threw 105 pitches in the outing and struck out four batters. He also stranded six base runners and retired the final seven batters he faced.
Wolcott got plenty of run support from the Duke (29-16, 12-11 ACC) offense, which put the leadoff runner on base in six of the eight innings they batted. Senior first baseman Nate Freiman led one of those frames off with his 14th home run of the season, which was also his second of the series and moved him into a tie for second place on Duke’s career home run list. Sophomore shortstop Jake Lemmerman also tagged a three-run shot as part of a five-run seventh inning.
Boston College (25-17, 10-11 ACC) held a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning before the Blue Devils scored three runs in the bottom half of the fifth to take the lead for good. Duke freshman outfielder Will Piwnica-Worms had an RBI triple during that inning for one of his two hits, recording his 20th multi-hit game in the process.
The Eagles got their runs on an RBI single from Barry Butera in the fourth and another RBI single from Mickey Wiswall in the third, but it was not enough to compensate for the four runs Duke scored off of starter John Leonard (1-2) and the five other runs they drove in against reliever Kevin Moran. Boston College knocked out a combined eight hits, including three from Wiswall, but left seven runners on base in the loss.
After the seven solid innings from Wolcott, junior Michael Ness took over for the final two innings and gave up just one hit to lock up the win. The scoreless outing lowered Ness’ ERA to 2.23 for the season.
Wolcott started the game by throwing four straight balls to leadoff man Robbie Anston, but quickly rebounded to get a flyout and then an inning-ending double play from Sanchez. Despite the leadoff walk, Wolcott used just 11 pitches to get through the inning, thanks to Duke’s 42nd double play of the season which was turned by Lemmerman and Saade at second base.
After turning the double play in the first inning, Saade stepped into the box as and drew a leadoff walk. He would eventually get to third on a balk and a flyout to deep right field by Williams, but was left stranded 90 feet from the plate when Leonard got two clutch outs against the heart of Duke’s lineup. With Saade on first and one out on the board, Leonard forced Freiman to foul out to third base and then struck out Gould to end the inning.
Wolcott got into a jam of his own in the top of the second after giving up a leadoff single to Mickey Wiswall and a one-out walk to Barry Butera, but got himself out unharmed with a strikeout and a flyout. Wolcott also stranded another runner on third in the top of the third inning after fielding a ground ball hit right back at him and flipping to first base for the third out, erasing a two-out double by Andrew Lawrence in the process.
Unfortunately for Duke, however, Leonard was just as clutch in the third inning and left another Blue Devil on third base to keep the game at 0-0. Piwnica-Worms led the inning off with a two-strike single back up the middle before moving to second on a balk and to third on a groundout by McCurdy. With one out and Duke threatening, Leonard struck out Saade looking for the second out and then dodged a bullet when Williams crushed a fly ball to deep right field that John Spatola caught right at the wall.
The hits kept coming for the Eagles, who knocked out three in the fourth to score the first run of the game. The first knock of the inning was a double by Wiswall that stayed just inside the left field foul line, putting him in scoring position with no outs. He moved to third on a groundout by Belfiore and then crossed the plate when Butera ripped a line drive to the right side that Freiman, who was playing in front of the bag to cut the run, could not hang on to. The ball skipped off the web of Freiman’s glove and rolled to the back of the infield, allowing Wiswall to cross the plate for a 1-0 Boston College lead. Spatola then came through with another single through the right side that put runners on first and second before Wolcott buckled down and retired the next two hitters to get out of the inning with just one run of damage.
The 1-0 deficit did not last long though, as Freiman led off the bottom of the fourth with his 14th home run of the season. After falling behind 1-2 in the count, Freiman hammered Leonard’s next offering well over the left field fence for his second homer of the series. The bomb was also the 37th long ball of Freiman’s career, which moved him into a tie for second place on Duke’s career home run list alongside Scott Pinoni, who hit 37 from 1992-94.
But just as soon as Duke tied the game on Freiman’s homer, Boston College strung together two hits in the fifth – including another double from Lawrence – to reclaim a 2-1 lead. Lawrence banged his double off the left-center field wall with one out and scored on a single from Wiswall that just squeaked through the right side of the infield.
Duke’s offense bounced back in a big way in the bottom half of the fifth, however, and scored three times to take a 4-2 lead. Following a leadoff single from Sherlock, Piwnica-Worms drove in the first run with a triple off the left field wall. It was the third triple of the season for Piwnica-Worms, who scored on a squeeze play one pitch later. Piwnica-Worms took off for the plate on Leonard’s delivery, and McCurdy did his part by setting a perfect bunt down the first base line that he just beat out for an infield single. Duke sacrificed two outs to move McCurdy over to third where he scored on a two-out single through the left side by Gould.
Now with a two-run lead to protect, Wolcott let his defense work for him in a three-up, three-down inning. He induced two groundouts to Saade for the first two outs, before Piwnica-Worms saved an extra-base hit with an over-the-shoulder catch on a fly ball in center field. Boston College designated hitter Mike Sudol mashed a long fly ball to the warning track in straight-away center field that would have fallen in for at least a double had Piwnica-Worms not ran it down to the warning track and made the catch on the run over his shoulder just in front of the outfield wall.
Wolcott did the majority of the work in the seventh on his own, however, striking out a pair as part of another 1-2-3 inning. Wolcott got Brad Zapenas looking with a two-strike breaking ball to open the inning and then got Lawrence to chase a fastball to end the inning. Wolcott fanned five hitters through his seven innings while throwing 105 pitches, 24 of which he used to get through the sixth and seventh innings.
The Duke offense exploded for five runs in the bottom of the seventh, scoring the first on an RBI single from Freiman and the other three on a three-run homer by Lemmerman. Lemmerman’s bomb was only the second hit of the inning for Duke, but took advantage of Freiman’s single and a two-out walk taken by Hassan. With runners at first and second following Hassan’s walk, Lemmerman lifted a 1-2 fastball over the left-center field wall for his fourth homer of the season. Duke then took advantage of two fielding errors by the Eagles, one of which allowed Sherlock to score from second to run the lead to 9-2.
With the lead now increased to seven runs, Duke gave Wolcott a break and sent Ness to the mound to face the middle of Boston College’s lineup. The trio of Sanchez, Wiswall and Belfiore entered the game with a combined batting average of .336 and 33 home runs, but could not manage any solid contact against Ness. Ness needed just seven pitches to get through all three batters and ended the inning by striking out Belfiore for good measure.
Ness came out again in the ninth and navigated around a two-out double by Sudol to get the final three outs and end the game. Two of those outs were weakly hit groundouts to the right side that Freiman and Saade gloved, while the other was a called strikeout against pinch hitter Mike Augustine that ended the game.
With the series already locked up, Duke will have a chance to pick up its first ACC sweep of the season on Sunday at 1 p.m. Duke has not announced a starter for the game, though the Eagles will send left-hander Pat Dean (4-3, 3.54 ERA) to the mound.