DAVIDSON, N.C. – Jake Lemmerman drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI single in the top of the ninth to cap an eight-run comeback in which Duke overcame a 7-0 deficit en route to an 8-7 win over Davidson Wednesday evening at Wilson Field.
Lemmerman’s go-ahead single drove in classmate Tom Luciano from third base after the freshman outfielder drew a leadoff walk to start the inning before stealing second and advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt by Ryan McCurdy.
After Davidson scored seven runs on seven hits in the first inning, relievers Grant Monroe, John Bunder, Ryan Perry and Alex Hassan (2-0) combined to hold Davidson (10-25) scoreless over the next eight frames. Hassan was awarded the win after being called on to get the final out in a pressure situation in the eighth inning before shutting down the Wildcats with a runner on third base in the ninth inning.
Sophomore second baseman Gabriel Saade accounted for four of Duke’s runs with a two-run homer in the sixth inning as part of a 2-for-5 outing in which he also crossed the plate three times. Junior catcher Matt Williams and senior designated hitter Jonathan Nicolla also contributed two hits apiece to extend their career-long hitting streaks. Nicolla bumped his streak to 13 games, tying the longest streak of the season by any Blue Devil, while Williams improved his streak to 12 games.
Also for the second straight game, sophomore third baseman Ryan McCurdy reached base in at least three of his plate appearances, thanks to a single, a walk and a hit-by-pitch in Wednesday’s affair against Davidson. McCurdy keeps adding to his school-record hit-by-pitch total, which climbed to 18 after taking one off the arm against the Wildcats. McCurdy boasts a .452 on base percentage, which is tops on the team.
The win moved Duke (29-13-1,
Davidson received a 3-for-5, two-RBI effort from left fielder Bret Shore, who legged out a two-run triple as part of the seven-run first inning and also stole a base. In addition to Shore’s outing, Davidson’s leadoff trio of Hugh Eden, Zach Kayne and Danny Weiss combined to go 6-for-14 with each Wildcat turning in a pair of hits. Shortstop Matt Webb went 3-for-4 as well from the five spot.
Wildcat reliever Ian Horkley (0-5) took the loss after allowing the go-ahead run to reach base in the top of the ninth. He was immediately removed in favor of Mike Frongello, but Duke drove in the run anyway thanks to Lemmerman’s RBI single.
Davidson had a big first inning and took an early 7-0 lead after stringing together seven hits, three of which came in succession with two outs. Six of the runs were unearned, however, as a throwing error from Knott on a potential double play ground ball allowed the first run to score while giving the Wildcats the extra out they needed to keep their rally going. Following the error, the Wildcats used a well-executed hit-and-run to send in another run and set up an RBI opportunity for Chris FitzPatrick, who came through with a fielder’s choice groundout to the left side. McCurdy made a diving stop on FitzPatrick’s grounder to keep it in the infield and converted it into the second out after firing to Saade for the force out at second. The final out of the inning did not come until five batters later, however, as the Wildcats rattled off four straight two-out hits, including a two-run triple by nine-hitter Brett Shore. The consecutive knocks gave Davidson their last four runs of the inning before
The Blue Devils took back one of the runs in the top of the second though, after Saade reached base to start the inning and scored on an RBI groundout by Lemmerman. Nicolla helped Saade move into scoring position with a two-strike single to left field that advanced Saade to third and extended the senior’s hitting streak to a career-best 13 games.
Davidson threatened to add to their 7-1 lead after putting a runner on third with one out, but the Blue Devil defense kept the scoring threat at bay to escape the inning unharmed. Chris FitzPatrick attempted to squeeze the runner to the plate, but he punched his bunt right at a charging Freiman who picked it up and quickly fired to the plate to stop Chase FitzPatrick from scoring. Williams did an excellent job blocking the plate on the play, cutting off any chance that FitzPatrick had of sneaking around the tag.
Davidson went ahead with their predetermined split and brought in right-hander Andy Bass to start the top of the third inning. He gave up a leadoff single to Hassan, but kept the Blue Devil leadoff man at first base after retiring the next three hitters on 10 pitches.
Davidson switched pitchers yet again at the top of the fourth, sending right-hander Bobby DeMuro to the mound to take over for Bass, which was just what the Blue Devils needed to cut into the 7-1 lead. Duke had much better success against the side-arming DeMuro and loaded the bases with one out, thanks to a leadoff single from Saade and consecutive free passes to McCurdy and Lemmerman. Despite a pitching change after DeMuro’s 3-1 walk to Lemmerman, all three base runners managed to cross the plate, narrowing the deficit to 7-4. Left-hander Brian Packey was brought in to limit the damage and did his job by forcing Tim Sherlock to ground out to first base, but the Wildcats were forced to concede the run to get the force out. They nearly escaped the jam with just the one run allowed, but Chris FitzPatrick made his second throwing error of the day on the next play to allow the last two Blue Devils to score.
The three-run fourth was the first sign of an offensive breakout for the Blue Devils, who came within one run in the top of the fifth after Saade hammered a two-run homer. Saade’s home run, his sixth of the season, was a no-doubter from the second it left his bat. The towering shot to left-center field followed a one-out single by Gould that sparked the rally that was soon continued by another one-out base knock by Nicolla. Nicolla’s base hit down the left field line signaled the end of the day for Packey as Matt Sliwiak came in to pitch to McCurdy. Sliwiak had much better luck than Packey, despite having to get out of a bases-loaded jam after issuing a full count walk to McCurdy and allowing Lemmerman to reach on another Wildcat fielding error. With the bases juiced and just one out on the board, Packey took the game into his hands and fanned Sherlock for the second out before forcing Hassan to fly out to left to strand all three base runners.
Lost in the steady Duke rally was a solid relief outing put together by
Davidson followed suit in the top of the sixth and changed pitchers once again, but could not stifle the surging Blue Devil offense and gave up their lead on a pair of consecutive hits from Williams and Freiman. Williams opened the inning with a leadoff double that was soon followed by a base hit to center field by Freiman. Head coach Sean McNally put up the stop sign for Williams as he was heading into third on Freiman’s single, but Davidson center fielder Hugh Eden misplayed the ball and allowed it to skirt under his glove. Williams easily scored on the error while Freiman took advantage and moved up to second on the play. Newly-inserted left-hander Mac Hunter finally settled in after the game-tying hit and retired the next three batters to end the inning.
Though he was now pitching to protect a 7-7 tie, Bunder went about his business as usual, sitting down three of his next four batters in the bottom of the sixth. The freshman right-hander picked up his third punchout of the game in the inning. He gave up the only hit of his outing in the inning to break a streak of nine straight batters retired dating back to his last outing against N.C. Central. Following his 2.2 innings of scoreless work against Davidson on Wednesday, Bunder has put together 5.2 scoreless innings over his last two appearances while allowing one hit and striking out six during that span. He has given up just one run since March 26 to lower his ERA over 3.50 points in his last five appearances.
Duke had an opportunity to take its first lead of the ballgame in the seventh, but freshman right-hander Ian Horkley was brought in to get out of the jam and came through to get a tough third out and strand McCurdy on third base. McCurdy opened the inning by beating out a high chopper behind the mound and moved over to second on a sac bunt from Lemmerman. Sherlock then belted a single to center field to move McCurdy over to third, but was thrown out at second on the same play while trying to advance on
Davidson also put themselves in a position to take the lead in the bottom half of the seventh, but Perry was able to kill the rally and strand Brady on second base. Perry was brought into escape the pressure situation after Brady managed to reach base on a Duke fielding error before moving to third on a sacrifice bunt and a ground out. Brady would get no further though, as Perry induced a groundout to Freiman to end the threat.
Perry got himself into his own jam in the eighth, but was bailed out when Hassan took over on the mound and rolled an inning-ending ground ball to strand a pair of runners. Kayne became the potential go-ahead run in the inning after reaching with a leadoff single and moving over to second on a sacrifice bunt. Webb soon joined Kayne on the base paths after drawing a walk, which prompted Duke to bring in Hassan to get out of the jam. The Blue Devil closer did as expected, forcing Chris FitzPatrick to roll a weak ground ball to Lemmerman, who easily flipped to Saade at second base to get out of the inning.
After coming into the game in the eighth as part of the defensive change that sent Hassan to the mound, Luciano assumed leadoff duties to start off the ninth inning. He worked the count to his favor and watched a 3-2 fastball cruise by out of the zone to take a leadoff walk and become the go-ahead run on first base. The walk prompted yet another pitching change for the Wildcats, who sent Mike Frongello to the mound in place of Horkley. Luciano welcomed Frongello to the mound by stealing second on his first pitch to put himself in scoring position before McCurdy laid down his team-leading ninth sacrifice bunt to push him over to third. Lemmerman then stepped to the plate and smoked a line drive back up the middle that Frongello got a glove on, but could not stop from heading into the outfield. Frongello went on to get the final two outs with little resistance, but the damage had already been done as Lemmerman’s RBI single put the Blue Devils ahead 8-7.
Despite squandering the seven-run lead, the Wildcats refused to go quietly in the bottom of the ninth and had the opportunity to the game and even to take the lead. Hassan saved the game though, after picking off pinch-hitter Sam Payne on second base for the second-to-last out of the ballgame. The pickoff became an even bigger play when Shore followed Payne’s at bat with a base hit to right-center field that would easily have scored the runner and tied the game. Instead, Davidson was left with a runner on first base and two outs with the top of their lineup coming to bat.
The Blue Devils will have the opportunity to continue their push toward the ACC Tournament this weekend as