DURHAM, N.C. - The Duke baseball team completed a three-game sweep of Bucknell with a 4-1 win over the Bison Sunday afternoon at Jack Coombs Field.
Junior right-hander Robert Huber (2-0) earned the win after holding Bucknell to one run on three hits in five innings of work in his first start of the season. Huber struck out the side in the first inning and totaled six strikeouts on the day.
Senior right fielder Jeff Kremer led Duke at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. Junior Jordan Betts, sophomore Andy Perez, junior Matt Berezo, sophomore Grant McCabe and junior Anthony D'Alessandro added a hit each for the Blue Devils.
"We pitched exceptionally well," said head coach Chris Pollard. "I thought [Robert Huber] pitched really, really well ... three hits, two walks, all three pitches for strikes. We felt like we wanted to get him out of there after five; he was right at his pitch count. I thought [Nick] Hendrix came in and had a really nice outing. We played great, great defense today. We played good defense with our infield especially. We didn't have our best approach in terms of our offense. We had some runners in scoring position and we didn't do a good job scoring them. Fortunately our pitching and our defense picked us up today."
Duke got off to a quick start in the first as the Blue Devils plated a run for the early 1-0 lead. Reminiscent of Saturday night's walk-off victory, Kremer again led things off with a one-out walk. With two away, Kremer scored easily on a Betts' triple, his first of the season, to deep right field.
The one-run Duke advantage held until the fifth when Bucknell pushed across its first run of the series to tie the game 1-1. Right fielder Joe Ogren walked with one out and advanced to third on a Jon Mayer single to left center. Ogren would go on to score on a Matt Busch fielder's choice before Huber struck out Greg Wasikowski to end the inning.
The Blue Devils responded in the bottom half of the fifth with a two-out, two-RBI single from Perez. Kremer began the inning with an infield single to the right side. Bucknell starter Dan Goldstein (0-2) was able to retire the next two Duke batters before Perez laced a single to right to regain the lead for the Blue Devils, 3-1.
"Andy's been giving us good at bats," Pollard added. "That was a huge moment in the game because we had left some runners on base. We didn't have a really good at bat the at bat before that with the runners at second and third. For him to come up clutch right there ... especially after they had scored a run in the top ... for us to have an answer and still win the inning, that was a big moment."
Goldstein would take the loss after giving up three runs on five hits over 4.2 innings. The Bucknell right-hander struck out eight, but also issued five walks.
The Bison looked to again tie the score in the top of the eighth after Busch and Wasikowski both singled to start off the inning. Leadoff hitter Corey Furman tried to advance the runners, but Duke LHP Remy Janco fielded the bunt cleanly and threw Busch out at third for the first out. Janco gave way to sophomore Andrew Istler on the mound, who induced the double play ball from shortstop Robb Scott to end the Bucknell threat.
"I think the most important moment in the game was when Remy Janco came in," Pollard said. "It's very difficult when you know a guy's bunting, left on left, to throw strikes. And he executed not only the strike but also executed the out to get the lead runner to preserve the double play."
Duke tacked on its fourth and final run in the bottom of the eighth. A Perez walk, McCabe single and D'Alessandro walk, his third on the afternoon, loaded the bases. Perez would score the insurance run on a 6-4-3 double play ball.
The three-run cushion proved to be more than enough as Istler pitched a perfect ninth for his second save of the season. The Wellington, Fla., native got Travis Clark to fly out to right before getting Luke Lombardi on a called third strike. First baseman Rob Krentzman then lined out to right to end the game.
Duke's pitching staff was stellar all weekend as the Blue Devil hurlers limited Bucknell to a .102 team batting average. In three games, Duke surrendered just nine hits and five walks while recording 37 strikeouts.
"You couldn't ask for any more," Pollard added. "Except for two innings at Florida, this staff's pitched great. You take away the seventh and the eighth innings Sunday at Florida and we've pitched well enough to win every single ball game that we've played so far. Coach [Andrew] See is doing a great job with these guys and I think they're buying in to what he's saying. Right now we have some confidence on the bump."
Duke travels to North Carolina A&T Tuesday, Feb. 26 for its first midweek game of the season. The Blue Devils and the Aggies face off at 3 p.m. Duke then begins a six-game homestand, hosting Campbell at Jack Coombs Field Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 3 p.m., before taking on Towson Mar. 1-3 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.