GREENSBORO, N.C. – Will Currier scattered four hits and two runs over five-plus innings and received a pair of two-RBI efforts from teammates Matt Williams and Jonathan Nicolla as Duke beat UNC Greensboro 10-3 Tuesday evening to complete a two-game sweep over the Spartans at UNCG Baseball Stadium.
Currier (4-5) allowed just three runners to reach base in his first five innings while limiting his pitch count to 49 pitches during that span. He used a total of 65 pitchings over his 5.1 innings on the way to three strikeouts and his no-walk outing of the season. Over his last two appearances, the sophomore right-hander owns a 2-0 record and a 1.86 ERA after holding the opposition to just five hits over 9.2 innings of work.
Williams and Nicolla backed Currier with matching 2-for-5 outings that extended each Blue Devil’s career long hitting streak. Nicolla improved his team-leading tear to 12 games, while Williams bumped his streak to 11 consecutive games.
Currier got into his first jam in the sixth inning and gave way to freshman Dennis O'Grady, who limited the damage to one run before going on to hold the Spartans (24-15) to two hits over two-plus scoreless innings. Ron Causey also contributed an inning in the ninth to close out a dominant pitching performance by a Blue Devil staff that held UNC Greensboro to seven hits and no walks.
Sophomore third baseman Ryan McCurdy and outfielder Alex Hassan each reached base in four of their five plate appearances, with McCurdy drawing three walks in addition to an RBI double. Hassan also picked up a pair of walks to add to a 2-for-4 outing in which he scored and drove in a run. Second baseman Gabriel Saade also frequented the bases with a pair of hits, including an RBI double.
Sean Snell and Corey Overholtzer provided two of UNC Greensboro’s three RBI as each Spartan went 2-for-4 with a run as well. Starter Kory Judd took the loss after allowing four runs on five hits through 3.2 innings on the mound. Judd was sharp in his first three innings, but finally succumbed to Duke’s offense as the Blue Devils rallied for four runs in the fourth inning.
The first two innings featured a pitching duel between Currier and Judd, as the pair combined to allow just one runner to reach base in the opening frames. Williams was the only player to reach base, as the junior Blue Devil knocked a single to right field in his first at bat.
The Blue Devils finally got to Judd in the third and threatened to score their first run of the game, but a timely double play by the Spartans erased a first-and-second situation and ended the inning. McCurdy and Hassan were the runners on base after McCurdy drew a one-out walk that was soon followed by an infield single to the left side by Hassan. With Duke threatening, Judd got a tough out to end the inning, as he was able to get Williams and his .333 batting average to hit a ground ball directly at his second base to start the turn.
The Spartans followed suit by opening the bottom of the third with a leadoff single by Gehringer and moving him over to third before Currier dealt a crucial strikeout to end the scoring threat. Gehringer started the inning with a base hit through the left side before Logan Smith bunted him over to second. He then advanced 90 feet to third on a groundout from Ray Quinones before Currier stranded him there after striking out leadoff man Pedro Leon on a 1-2 breaking ball.
Duke kept swinging hard and eventually put together four hits on the way to a four-run innings in the top of the fourth. The first four Blue Devils reached base, including Saade who drove in the first run with an RBI double that landed no the warning track in the deepest part of the ballpark in center field. By the time Overholtzer had thrown the ball in from the outfield, Duke first baseman Nate Freiman was stepping on the plate and Blue Devil outfielder Gould was already standing up on third. Nicolla then kept the rally going with a two-run single that sent in Saade and Gould before Judd was finally able to get the first two outs of the inning. He faltered by issuing another walk to McCurdy to put a pair on with two outs, prompting a call to the bullpen that brought right-hander James White to the mound. Hassan made the Spartans pay for the two out walk though, squeezing in Duke’s last run with an RBI single up the middle.
Now working with a 4-0 lead, Currier continued to deal and retired three of the next four batters on just 13 pitches, despite giving up his second single of the game. Through his first four innings, Currier was remarkably efficient, using just 39 pitches to retire 12 of his 14 batters faced.
Duke added two more two-out RBI to go ahead 6-0 lead in the sixth, this time on a two-run double by Williams. Duke put both runners on base with two outs to set the table for Williams, as McCurdy and Hassan drew back-to-back walks before UNC Greensboro called on Blake Hassebrock to replace White and escape the jam. Hassebrock’s first two pitches were called balls before he finally grooved one into the strike zone that Williams promptly sent into the right-center field gap for a two-run double that easily scored Hassan from first base.
UNC Greensboro responded by putting their first two runs on the board in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI double from Snell and a two-out RBI single from Overholtzer. The inning could have gone much worse for the Blue Devils if not for a pair of run-saving throws to the plate by McCurdy. On two separate occasions, UNC Greensboro threatened with runners on second and third, but hit ground balls to third base which were easily handled by McCurdy. In both situations, the runners on third took off for the plate where they were gunned down by several steps on McCurdy’s throws. Duke also made a pitching change in the inning, bring O’Grady to the mound to inherit a second-and third situation. The freshman allowed one of the runs to score after surrendering the two-out single to Overholtzer, but limited the damage to the single run after striking out pinch hitter Brent O’Berry to strand a pair of runners on base.
Despite a pair of Spartan errors in the top of the seventh, Duke had an uneventful inning and took the 6-2 lead into the bottom half of the inning. Freshman John Bunder entered the game as a pinch runner in the inning, but advanced no further than where he came in at first base. He made a much bigger impact in the next half inning though, when he took over in right field and saved a run with a tremendous diving catch on a ball that was on its way to become an RBI double. The deep fly in question came off
Following a quiet eighth inning, Duke added four more runs to their lead to go ahead 10-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth. Bunder drove in the first run with an RBI groundout, which was soon followed by a Spartan fielding error that allowed another Blue Devil to score. Following a wild pitch that sent in another run, McCurdy capped the late rally with an RBI double that dropped into no-man’s land in shallow left-field.
The Spartans managed one more run in the bottom of the ninth thanks to a leadoff triple by Overholtzer, but could manage no more as Causey shut down UNC Greensboro’s next three hitters to end the game.
With the win, Duke improves to 22-0 outside of the conference this season.
Duke will continue its mid-week road trip with a 7 p.m. meeting at Davidson on Wednesday. Freshman right-hander Ryan Knott (0-0, 2.31 ERA) will take the mound for Duke opposite a currently unnamed Wildcat starter.