CLINTON, S.C. – Duke used seven pitchers who gave up just four earned runs over 18 innings to sweep a double header against Presbyterian, winning the opener 3-2 and the nightcap 5-3, Wednesday afternoon at the PC Baseball Complex.
Freshman left-hander Eric Pfisterer (3-2) turned in a career-long 6.0-inning performance to earn the win for Duke (31-18, 12-12 ACC) in game one, and relievers Will Currier and Dennis O'Grady both notched saves to lock up the wins. Pfisterer scattered four hits and two runs in the start while striking out four with one walk.
Currier, meanwhile, got the final nine outs to preserve the 3-2 win in the opener, while O’Grady got the final two outs in game two to collect his third save of the season. Along with Kyle Butler, Tim Sherlock and sophomore Ryan Knott (3-1), who went 4.1 innings out of the bullpen and got the win in game two, Duke’s bullpen gave up just two earned runs in 10.0 innings to help the Blue Devils reach 30 wins in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1998.
Duke freshman outfielder Will Piwnica-Worms went 2-for-4 with a triple and two runs in the opening 3-2 win, while O’Grady and Sherlock both contributed one RBI apiece. Game two saw senior catcher Matt Williams drive in two runs with two hits and junior third baseman Ryan McCurdy accounted for three runs – two scored and one driven in – in a 2-for-3 performance at the plate. McCurdy reached base in six of his eight plate appearances with three hits, a walk and two hit by pitches to improve his on base percentage to .408.
Presbyterian (10-37) hit just .239 with three extra-base hits against Duke’s pitching staff. Mack Hite, Jared Combs and Andrew Williams each had three of those, while Cory Lyda and Kenny Bryant accounted for four of the Blue Hose’s five RBI.
Game One: Pfisterer Outduels Harmon In 3-2 Opening Win
Pfisterer (3-2) fired 81 pitches in the outing, striking out four and walking just one. Other than a two-run third inning that featured a pair of two-out RBI hits by Presbyterian, Pfisterer gave up just one hit in his other five innings of work. Currier, meanwhile, recorded the final nine outs to notch his second save of the season. Currier struck out two and did not walk a batter.
Duke got a two-hit, two-run performance from Will Piwnica-Worms, who knocked his team-leading fifth triple of the year. Dennis O'Grady and Tim Sherlock drove in one RBI apiece to account for two of Duke’s runs, while Piwnica-Worms scored on a wild pitch after his triple for the other run.
Presbyterian used starter Jesse Harmon (3-5) for 7.1 innings of three-run baseball. Harmon surrendered just five hits and threw 132 pitches in the start, but took the loss from a lack of run support.
Neither team managed to scratch any runs across in the first two innings, though both teams did manage one hit apiece. Marcus Jones had a an opposite field single for the Blue Devils, but then became the first out of an inning-ending double play. Presbyterian designated hitter Tony Micklon then followed with a one-out double down the left field line in the bottom of the second, but was left stranded on third base after Pfisterer struck out Zac Rhinesmith with a 1-2 two-seam fastball to end the inning. None of the Blue Hose hitters were able to make solid contact against Pfisterer in those first two frames, as their only hit came on Micklon’s ground ball that hopped just high enough to clear the infield and roll down the left field line.
Duke had a chance to get on the board in the bottom of the third, but left two men on base, including one on third, to keep the game scoreless. Harmon surrendered consecutive one-out walks to Ryan McCurdy and Jake Lemmerman for his first free passes of the game and then let McCurdy tag up and move to third on a fly ball to right field by Matt Williams. With the Blue Devils threatening to take a 1-0 lead with Freiman at the plate and men at the corners, Harmon buckled down and struck out Nate Freiman with three straight pitches to end the threat.
Pfisterer did his best to get through the third inning with the tie still intact, but Presbyterian strung together an RBI triple from Cory Lyda and an RBI infield single from Jared Combs to go ahead 2-0. Both knocks came with two outs on the board after struck out two of the first three batters he faced. But with Andrew Williams on first base after a one-out single, Lyda lifted a fly ball to deep left field that Jones tracked and got under, but could not hold on to as the ball popped out of his glove when he tried to make the catch on the run. Lyda made it to third on the play and sent in Williams in the process just before Combs beat out a slow roller to the left side of the infield for a two-out, run-scoring infield single.
Duke got one of those runs back in the top of the fourth, however, thanks to a one-out triple by Piwnica-Worms that set him up to score on a wild pitch. Piwnica-Worms, who entered the game hitting just under .400 against non-conference opponents, took the first pitch he saw down the right field line and legged it out into his team-leading fifth triple of the year. He scored one pitch later when Harmon misfired a breaking ball into the dirt for a wild pitch that cut the deficit to 2-1.
Harmon ran into control issues in the top of the sixth inning, which came back to haunt him when Duke scored twice to go ahead 3-2. Gould and Piwnica-Worms started the rally with consecutive leadoff singles before Harmon plunked Jones to load the bases with no outs. Harmon then gave up a five-pitch walk to O’Grady that sent in the tying run and kept the bases loaded for pinch hitter Tim Sherlock, who drove in another with a groundout to the right side. Control issues continued to plague Harmon as he walked McCurdy to re-load the bases, but he got himself out of the jam against the top of Duke’s lineup by forcing Lemmerman to foul out to third base and getting Williams to strike out to strand three runners.
Pfisterer, pitching into the sixth inning for the first time in his career, made quick work of the Blue Hose in the bottom of the sixth. He missed stepping on first base on a ground ball to the right side that Freiman fielded and flipped his way, but made up for the mistake by immediately rolling a ground ball that O’Grady and Lemmerman converted into an inning-ending double play. In the longest outing of his career, Pfisterer threw 81 pitches over 6.0 innings and struck out four batters.
The sixth inning would be the last for Pfisterer, as Currier came in to inherit the 3-2 lead in the seventh. The junior right-hander struck out two of the three batters he faced in the seventh and then worked around a double by Williams in the eighth to keep Duke on top 3-2 heading into the ninth inning.
Currier got a flyout for the first out of the ninth inning, but then gave up consecutive singles to Kenny Bryant and Micklon to allow the tying and go-ahead runs to reach base. He buckled down just in time, however, and forced a flyout to right and a foulout to first base to strand both runners and end the game.
Game Two: Knott, Duke Bullpen Preserves 5-3 Victory
Ryan Knott came out of the bullpen to throw 4.1 innings in relief of starter Trevor Cesar before Kyle Butler, Tim Sherlock and Dennis O'Grady closed out the final three innings to preserve a 5-3 win in game two.
After Cesar gave Duke two scoreless innings in his sixth start of the season, Knott entered the game in the third and lasted until the seventh to earn his third win of the season. He gave up two runs on three hits before the trio of Butler, Sherlock and O’Grady combined to get the final nine outs of the game.
Their efforts, along with a 2-for-3, two-run, one-RBI outing from Ryan McCurdy, were just enough to outpace the Blue Hose pitching duo of Mitchell Odom and Andrew Foushee, who combined to give up just three earned runs. Odom went six innings and worked around seven hits to give up four runs, though only two were earned, while Foushee made his second appearance of the day and gave up one run over the final three innings.
Cesar got himself into a jam in the bottom of the second, but just as quickly got himself out of it by striking out Presbyterian leadoff batter Andrew Williams with the bases loaded. After Cesar gave up a two-out single to Nate Horton and consecutive walks to load the bases, Williams stepped into the box and quickly fell behind 1-2 in the count. With the Blue Hose threatening, Cesar broke off a 1-2 curve ball that started off the plate, but dropped back into the zone for a called strike three.
The Blue Devils had a chance to go on top in the third after putting together two hits, but had the potential go-ahead run cut down at the plate on a throw in from right field by Gabe Grammer. With McCurdy on second base after he reached with a single, Williams laced a two-out single into right field. McCurdy took his turn around third and got the green light to head home, but was thrown out by several steps at the plate by Grammer, who fired a bullet in from right field to Horton who applied the tag to McCurdy for the final out of the inning.
The Blue Devils got into another jam in the bottom of the third, but got out of it unharmed thanks to Knott, who entered the game with a man on first base. Knott wound up facing a second and third situation with two outs, but got Micklon to ground out to second base to keep the game tied at 0-0.
The pitcher’s duel continued into the fifth inning before Duke finally broke the four-inning scoreless streak and went ahead 2-0. Presbyterian all but gave Duke its first run after committing a two-out error that led to two unearned runs. Duke scored the two runs without a single hit in the inning, getting two free base runners when both McCurdy and Lemmerman were hit by pitches in consecutive at bats. With two outs on the board after a Williams popout, Freiman slapped a ground ball to the right side that second baseman Zac Rhinesmith booted into right field. McCurdy scored from second on the play, while Lemmerman moved over to third and scored on the next pitch when Freiman intentionally got into a rundown between first and second. Freiman stopped halfway to draw the throw from the plate and hung up in the middle of the base path to give Lemmerman just enough time to cross the plate.
Presbyterian responded immediately, however, and scratched a run across the plate on a sacrifice fly ball from Kenny Bryant. With one out and men on second and third, Bryant lifted a fly ball to the right field gap that Joe Pedevillano ran down and caught. Mack Hite easily scored from third on the play after he reached first base following a swinging strikeout that included a wild pitch strike three.
Duke took that run back in the top of the seventh and added two more, beginning with an RBI double by McCurdy. McCurdy’s two-bagger scored Pedevillano, who started the inning with a leadoff single, and sparked the three-run rally that continued with a one-out RBI single from Williams and a two-out, run-scoring knock by Gould. The four-hit inning put Duke on top 5-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh with the top of Presbyterian’s lineup coming to the plate.
Trailing 5-1, Presbyterian’s bats finally got hot. In the bottom of the seventh, the Blue Hose used three singles and a Duke fielding error to score twice and cut the deficit to 5-3. A one-out single from Hite started the rally, and two wild pitches moved him over to third base. Cory Lyda then slapped a ground ball to first base that got past Jeremy Gould for a run-scoring error that set the table for a single from Jared Combs. After Combs’ base knock, Duke brought in Butler to inherit men on first and second along with a revamped defense that put Matt Williams back behind the plate, Freiman at first base and Gould back in left field. Bryant welcomed Butler to the game with an RBI single through the left side, but that would be the last run of the inning for Presbyterian as Butler got two straight outs to keep Duke ahead 5-3.
Butler ran into more trouble with two outs in the eighth after he gave up consecutive infield singles, but let senior left-hander Tim Sherlock take over to get the final out. Duke head coach Sean McNally brought in Sherlock to face the lefty-swinging Lyda, who weakly grounded out to third base to strand the tying run.
Sherlock stayed on to get the first out of the ninth inning, but yielded the ball to Dennis O'Grady who came in to face the tying run with Combs on first base. O’Grady struck out pinch hitter Jesse Harmon for the second out of the inning, but then hit Nate Horton with a 1-2 fastball to put the tying run on base. A wild pitch against Rhinesmith moved both of those runners into scoring position, but they got no further after Lemmerman gloved a line drive hit by Rhinesmith to end the game.
Duke will now resume ACC play with a three-game road trip to Virginia on May 8-10. Game one of the series will open on Friday at 7 p.m.