DURHAM, N.C. – Dennis O'Grady threw seven innings of one-run baseball, and Duke’s defense turned in several run-saving defensive plays in a 3-2 win over Virginia Tech on Friday night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
O’Grady (4-3) matched a season high with seven innings in which he scattered six hits, gave up one earned run and struck out seven before handing the ball over to Marcus Stroman in the eighth inning. Stroman (2-3) allowed three hits and one earned run over his two complete innings of relief, but tossed a scoreless ninth inning en route to earning his second win of the season.
O’Grady outdueled Virginia Tech starter Joe Mantiply (5-6), who faced just one batter over the minimum through the first six innings and left the game after 7.2 innings with the score tied at 2-2. Mantiply struck out nine, but the Blue Devils charged him with the go-ahead run after his exit when reliever Jake Joyce threw a wild pitch with freshman Jordan Betts on third.
Betts led off that inning with a walk and moved to second when O’Grady, who left the mound in the previous inning but stayed in the lineup as the designated hitter, dropped down a push bunt single to put runners on first and second. Freshman Mark Tatera than laid down a sacrifice bunt, and Betts scored from third with two outs on the wild pitch.
Anthony D'Alessandro and Will Piwnica-Worms each contributed an RBI on the night as D’Alessandro finished 1-for-3 with an RBI single that tied the game in the second inning. Piwnica-Worms was 1-for-3 at the plate with a one-run double and contributed defensively with a stellar diving catch in right-center field that robbed pinch hitter Matt Blow of what would have been a go-ahead RBI double in the top of the eighth inning.
Piwnica-Worms’ diving catch on Blow’s line drive to the right field gap was the second run-saving play made by Duke’s outfield. Freshman David Perkins, who drew the start in left field, also did his part by teaming up with shortstop Angelo LaBruna to throw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate in the top of the sixth.
The Blue Devils (21-24, 5-17 ACC) scored their three runs on six hits as six different players recorded a hit. Along with D’Alessandro, three other freshman recorded hits – Perkins, Tatera and Chris Marconcini – while the other two hits came from O’Grady and Piwnica-Worms.
Virginia Tech plated the first run of the game in the top of the second inning on a one-run single by Johnny Morales that scored Andrew Rash after he reached base on a hit-batsman by O’Grady. Duke responded in the bottom the second to even the score at 1-1 apiece on a one-run single by D’Alessandro that drove in Marconcini after he reached base on a leadoff double.
The Blue Devils grabbed a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh after halting a Hokie run in the top of the sixth inning on a play at the plate that kept the game tied. With Tyler Horan on first base and two outs on the board, Morales laced a double down the left field line. Perkins chased the ball into the corner and fired a strike to LaBruna on the edge of the outfield grass, and LaBruna turned around and hurled a perfect relay to catcher Jeff Kremer who applied the tag just in time to kill the scoring chance and end the inning.
Mantiply kept Duke in check until the seventh when the Blue Devils picked up the go-ahead run on a double by Piwnica-Worms that scored Perkins after he reached on base on a leadoff single. Piwnica-Worms crushed a line drive to the left field gap, and assistant coach Edwin Thompson, coaching third base, waived Perkins to the plate where he scored standing up when the relay throw to the plate soared to the backstop.
O’Grady left the game after the seventh, and Virginia Tech tied the game in the top of the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Horan that scored Tim Smalling from third after he reached base on a leadoff double. Piwnica-Worms saved a go-ahead run with his spectacular diving grab in the right centerfield gap that ended the inning and kept the score even at 2-2.
Duke took the lead once again in the bottom of the eighth after a bunt single by O’Grady and a sacrifice bunt by Tatera put two runners in scoring position at second and third. The Blue Devils sent in the game-winning run on a wild pitch by reliever Joyce.
Duke will send freshman right-handed pitcher Robert Huber (4-0, 3.89 ERA) to the mound for game two opposite Virginia Tech righty Marc Zecchino (4-4, 4.20 ERA). Game two on Saturday, April 30, is slated for 2 p.m. at Durham Bulls Athletic Park as the Blue Devils look to clinch the series with a win.