GREENSBORO, N.C. – Eric Pfisterer scattered two hits over 5.1 innings, and Marcus Stroman contributed multiple RBI and a save for the second straight game to lead Duke past UNC Greensboro 8-6 on Wednesday evening at UNCG Baseball Stadium.
Pfisterer (2-2) struck out a season-high seven batters and did not allow a hit after the second inning. Duke’s offense backed him with six runs in the sixth inning, keyed by a bases-loaded double off the left field wall by Stroman. Stroman, who also delivered a three-run triple and a six-out save in Tuesday’s 7-5 win over Wofford, then took the mound with a two-run lead in the ninth and recorded the final three outs.
The save was the third in his last three appearances for Stroman, who has not allowed an earned run in 6.2 innings out of the bullpen this season. And while Stroman earned the save, it was junior David Putman who escaped a high-pressure jam in the bottom of the eighth inning. With Duke holding onto a 7-6 lead and UNC Greensboro threatening with the bases loaded and one out, Putman entered the game and recorded back-to-back strikeouts to strand all three runners and maintain Duke’s one-run lead.
The Spartans (18-14) committed three errors, and the Blue Devils took full advantage to score their most runs since an 11-3 win over N.C. Central on March 15. Duke got multiple hits from Jeff Kremer, who hit in the leadoff spot and stole a base, and Joe Pedevillano, who scored twice and hit in the two-spot for the first time in his career.
Duke opened the game by taking a 7-2 lead, but the Spartans chipped away with two runs in the seventh and eighth innings. The Blue Devil bullpen held onto the lead, however, and stranded a combined six runners over the final six innings to improve to 15-0 when leading after the seventh inning.
Pfisterer started out hot, striking out four of the first eight batters he faced, but gave up an RBI double to UNC Greensboro leadoff man Drew Gehringer and a sacrifice fly to Zach Leach in the top of the third inning. The Spartans loaded the bases with one out after Gehringer’s double, but Pfisterer settled down and got himself out of the jam with two fly balls to strand two men on base.
The Blue Devils struck right back in the top of the fourth, however, and sacrificed a base runner with men on first and third to plate their first run of the game. With one out, Will Piwnica-Worms on first and Joe Pedevillano on third, Piwnica-Worms was picked off at first but immediately took off for second and put himself in a rundown. Pedevillano waited and took off for the plate where he just slid under the tag on the throw from second baseman Ray Quinones.
From there, Pfisterer settled down and shut out the Spartans in the fourth and fifth innings to keep the one-run deficit in place. The 6-2 southpaw retired the side in the fifth inning before his offense finally broke through with six runs in the top of the sixth.
UNC Greensboro used three double plays to kill Duke rallies in the first five innings, but the Blue Devils finally broke out to take a 7-2 lead in the sixth. Duke took advantage of back-to-back UNC Greensboro fielding errors to load the bases and then cleared them with a pair of RBI walks and a two-run double off the left field wall by Stroman. After a wild pitch plated Duke’s fifth run of the inning, the Blue Devils pulled off a first-and-third double steal with freshman Mike Rosenfeld and Stroman to cap the rally.
Pfisterer came back out and retired two of the first three batters he faced in the sixth, but was removed in favor of freshman right-hander Drew Van Orden with two outs and two men on base. Van Orden quickly got out of the jam by inducing a double play ground ball that was Duke’s 27th turn of the season.
Van Orden ran into some trouble in the bottom of the seventh, however, and gave up a leadoff double to UNC Greensboro’s Chris Barker that eventually led to the Spartans’ third run of the game. Van Orden would eventually leave the game in the hands of classmate Mark Lumpa, who entered with one out, runners at the corners and a 7-3 Duke lead. The 5-6, 160-pound right-hander committed a balk that sent Barker across the plate, but still managed to sit down the next two batters and keep Duke ahead 7-4.
The Spartans mounted another rally in the bottom of the eighth and scored twice to come within one run but Putman entered the game with the bases loaded and struck out two batters to end the threat. Putman took over with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second and used a healthy dose of curveballs to strike out the core of UNC Greensboro’s lineup. He got two-hitter Quinones looking for the second out of the inning and then got three-hitter Trevor Edwards to whiff for the fourth time in the game.
Duke added one more run in the top of the ninth and went to Stroman to get the final three outs in the final frame. Stroman allowed two Spartans to reach base, but ended the game with his team-leading 40th strikeout of the season. In his 28.1 innings of work as a starter and reliever, Stroman has struck out 40 batters while walking just seven.
Duke will now resume ACC play with a three-game home series against Boston College at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on April 8-10. Saturday’s game will be televised on a tape delay by Fox Sports.