DURHAM, N.C. – For the first time since 1994, the Duke baseball team was able to sweep rival North Carolina in a three-game series as the Blue Devils defeated the Tar Heels 6-4 in the series finale Sunday afternoon at Jack Coombs Field.
Duke (17-12, 7-5 ACC) totaled five hits in the game, but North Carolina (15-12, 5-7 ACC) issued nine walks and hit three batters to bolster the Blue Devil offense. Junior Grant McCabe led the way with two hits, a run scored and an RBI, while classmate Andy Perez reached base in all four of his plate appearances, collecting a base hit in the fourth to go along with three walks. In addition, senior Mike Rosenfeld reached safely in three of his five plate appearances, and redshirt junior Aaron Cohn added two RBI.
“We didn’t exactly bang it around the ballpark,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “But we did a good job of taking advantage of the fact that we did get some free offense. We used the walks. We used the HBPs. We made our opportunities count. We played good enough defense and pitched good enough to make it hold up. It’s a great weekend for our club.”
Sophomore starter Michael Matuella pitched well in the no decision, allowing two runs on two hits over four complete innings. On short rest, Duke’s bullpen was able to grind out the rest of the game as Conner Stevens, Dillon Haviland and Nick Hendrix held UNC to two runs on five hits over the final five innings. Stevens (1-0) picked up the win after permitting a run on two hits, and Hendrix covered the last two innings to collect his first save of the season.
“First off, I thought it was a really good outing by Matuella,” Pollard added. “Then we had to run three guys back out there on the mound that had pitched yesterday. Those guys gutted it out. They were competitors. Conner Stevens goes in there and gives us two really good innings. That’s a real key to get us to the sixth. The job by Hendrix at the end … we didn’t even know if he’d be available at all and to come in and give us two innings right there … I know he’ll be sore tomorrow, but that’s pretty special. Nick’s a tremendous competitor. He was good when we needed him to be.”
The Blue Devils chased UNC starter Zac Gallen after the freshman right-hander recorded just one out in the first. Gallen walked a pair and hit three batters, yielding two runs without giving up a hit. The Tar Heels used six pitchers in total with Trevor Kelley (0-1) taking the loss after allowing Duke to regain the lead in the fifth.
Gallen struggled with his command early, plunking both Mark Lumpa and Matt Berezo to start the ballgame. After Lumpa was caught stealing, Gallen proceeded to walk Chris Marconcini and Rosenfeld to load the bases for Cohn. Cohn was also struck by a pitch to plate the first run of the day, then redshirt senior Ryan Deitrich followed with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 2-0 in favor of the Blue Devils.
North Carolina would tie the game in the fourth, bringing Matuella’s streak of 13 straight hitless innings to a close. First baseman Tom Zengel doubled home shortstop Michael Russell, who drew a one-out walk, before catcher Korey Dunbar lined an RBI base hit up the middle with two outs.
The Tar Heels took the lead the following frame, rallying for a single run with two outs. Second baseman Wood Myers sent a double to right center, which just eluded a diving Deitrich, and Russell picked up the RBI base hit.
A UNC error began the bottom of the fifth and Rosenfeld walked, which set the tables for Cohn. The Duke designated hitter drove a 1-2 pitch through the right side for his ninth RBI of the season. McCabe followed with a nice bunt on a safety squeeze to plate the go-ahead run. Cohn later came home on a wild pitch to put Duke on top, 5-3.
The Blue Devils tacked on an insurance run in the sixth as a Lumpa sacrifice fly scored McCabe from third.
Up three runs, the bullpen effectively closed out the game. North Carolina loaded the bases in the eighth before Berezo made a nice play on an Adam Pate groundball to end the threat. UNC scratched a run across in the ninth on a Russell sacrifice fly, but Hendrix closed the door with a fly ball to center for the final out.
Duke returns to action Tuesday, traveling to Liberty for a 6 p.m. tilt against the Flames.