DURHAM, N.C. – Duke extended its current win streak to five straight games, grabbing a 5-3 victory over crosstown foe North Carolina Central Tuesday afternoon at the Durham Athletic Park. Junior Griffin Conine blasted his second home run of the season, sophomore Matt Mervis picked up the win and graduate student Ethan DeCaster registered his first save as a Blue Devil.
Tied 1-1 entering the third, Zack Kone’s one-out single put a man on base for Conine, who worked a full count before sending NCCU starter Nick Caregnato’s offering well over the right field fence. Conine reached base in three of his five plate appearances, drawing a pair of walks in addition to the two-run homer.
NCCU (5-3) scored in the bottom of the first before a Joey Loperfido sacrifice fly tied that game, 1-1.
Right-hander Mervis (2-0) entered in the second and faced the minimum through three complete innings. The sophomore from North Bethesda, Md., struck out three, allowed one hit and did not walk a batter in his longest outing of the season.
“It was not the plan to bring Matt [Mervis] in in the second, but he pitched exceptionally well,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “He bridged a gap for us and got us an extra inning. He was very, very effective.”
The Eagles would trim the margin, 4-3, on left fielder Carter Williams’ fifth-inning homer, but relievers Bill Chillari and DeCaster combined for four scoreless innings to ensure the Duke (6-2) victory. Chillari retired all six batters he faced, striking out three. DeCaster recorded the final six outs for the save, his first at Duke and 10th of his collegiate career.
“Can’t say enough about the job by Bill Chillari,” Pollard added. “And Ethan [DeCaster] did what he’s been doing here. He’s been throwing very, very well through the early part of the year.”
The Blue Devils tacked on an eighth-inning insurance run after Max Miller coaxed a bases-loaded walk.
Freshman Michael Rothenberg was 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles to pace the Blue Devils. NCCU’s Williams had three hits on the day, adding a pair of singles to go along with his fifth-inning blast.
The Eagles’ Caregnato (0-1) took the loss, yielding four runs on four hits over 4.2 innings.
Next up, the Blue Devils begin a stretch of 12-straight home games, welcoming Cornell to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park Friday-Sunday, March 2-4.