DURHAM, N.C. - Jake Lemmerman and Will Piwnica-Worms combined for seven RBI and each hit three-run homers to lead Duke to a 15-11 win over No. 11 North Carolina Saturday afternoon at Durham Bulls Athletic Park to tie the series at one game apiece.
Piwnica-Worms mashed his three-run shot in the third inning to put Duke (10-4, 1-1 ACC) on top 4-3, while Lemmerman hit his three-run bomb as part of an eight-run sixth inning that gave the Blue Devils a sizable cushion for the rest of the game. Piwnica-Worms, who is hitting .444 for his career against North Carolina, had an extra-base hit for the third straight game and now leads the ACC with five triples.
Both Piwnica-Worms and Lemmerman had three hits and three runs apiece as Duke recorded season highs with 15 runs and 17 hits. Duke also matched a season high with seven stolen bases, three of which came from sophomore outfielder Joe Pedevillano. Pedevillano had a career-best 4-for-5 day at the plate while crossing the plate twice.
Duke senior Christopher Manno (1-0) came out of the bullpen to hold the Tar Heels (12-3, 1-1 ACC) to one unearned run over 1.2 innings in place of starter Eric Pfisterer. Pfisterer lasted 4.1 innings, scattering seven hits and four earned runs while freshman Marcus Stroman threw the final three innings to notch his second save of the season.
Every Blue Devil in the lineup recorded a hit except for cleanup hitter Jeremy Gould, who tagged two sacrifice flies and was hit by a pitch. Freshman Mike Carroll and senior Ryan McCurdy tagged two hits apiece while Carroll stole two bases and McCurdy drove in two runs, including one with a suicide squeeze bunt.
Duke roughed up North Carolina starter Patrick Johnson (2-2) for six runs in 3.2 innings and scored eight more runs off the Tar Heel bullpen.
The game was played in front of a crowd of 2,572 spectators, which is the largest home crowd in five seasons under Duke head coach Sean McNally. That followed a crowd of 1,238 that attend Friday's game against North Carolina.
North Carolina struck first with an RBI single from three-hitter Levi Michael in the top of the first inning to go ahead 1-0. The Tar Heels would go on to load the bases with one out in the inning, but Pfisterer escaped the jam with minimal damage by striking out Ryan Graepel for out number two and then inducing a flyout to right field to get out of the inning.
Duke quickly took that run back in the bottom of the first on a sacrifice fly from Gould to knot the game at 1-1. Gould's sacrifice fly followed consecutive leadoff singles from Lemmerman and Carroll. The Tar Heels fired back, however, with a two-run second inning that put them back on top 3-1. Consecutive RBI hits from two-hitter Tommy Coyle and Michael led to both runs in an inning that was extended due to a Duke fielding error.
The Blue Devils got just one hit in the bottom of the third, but it was a big one. With one out and two men on base, Piwnica-Worms crushed his second homer of the season over the 32-foot wall in left field to give the Blue Devils their first lead of the series at 4-3. The home run was Piwnica-Worms' second in six career games against the Tar Heels after he launched his first career homer as a freshman in the 2009 series.
After surrendering three runs in his first two innings, Pfisterer rebounded to sit down six of the seven hitters he faced in the third and fourth innings. Pfisterer retired the side in order in the third and then struck out two Tar Heels without surrendering a hit in the fourth.
Duke used its speed to scratch across two more runs in the bottom of the fourth and increase the lead to 6-3. Stroman and Pedevillano both reached with one-out infield singles to start the rally and then pulled off a double steal to move themselves into scoring position. From there, Duke called on McCurdy to lay down a bunt as part of a suicide squeeze play, and the senior came through with a perfect bunt down the first base line. Stroman took off for the plate on the pitch and slid in safely, while Pedevillano moved over to third. Lemmerman then capped the rally with a double off the left-center field wall that scored Pedevillano.
North Carolina got to Pfisterer in the top of the fifth, however, and scored twice to cut Duke's lead back to one run at 6-5. The Tar Heels had a chance to reclaim the lead with the bases loaded and one out, but Manno came out of the bullpen to get the final two outs. He had no choice to forfeit a run for one of those outs as designated hitter Bryn Renner lifted a one-out sacrifice fly into right field to drive in North Carolina's second run of the inning. Piwnica-Worms helped his team escape the jam, however, by chasing down a deep fly ball in straightaway center field and making an over-the-shoulder catch to end the inning.
Piwnica-Worms came through again in the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff triple - his ACC-leading fifth three-bagger of the year - to set up another Duke run. After his three-base shot to the right-center field warning track, Gould followed with a sacrifice fly ball to left field to send him across the plate and put Duke back on top 7-5. Dennis O'Grady also had a two-out double in the inning, but was left stranded there after reliever Patrick Munnelly escaped the jam with a flyout.
North Carolina responded in the top of the sixth with another run to cut the deficit back to one at 7-6, but that would be the closest the Tar Heels came to tying the game. Duke broke the game open with an eight-run sixth inning that featured seven hits and a three-run homer by Lemmerman. Lemmerman started the scoring with his three-run shot, which was the third of four straight hits in the inning for the Blue Devils. Duke's first six batters reached base safely en route to the team's biggest inning of the year.
Following the offensive outburst, Stroman took the mound in the seventh and gave up three runs, but kept Duke on top 15-9. North Carolina welcomed Stroman to the mound with three straight hits, including an RBI double from Coyle. Following a mound visit from pitching coach Sean Snedeker, however, Stroman settled down and induced a double play ground ball before exiting the inning with a strikeout.
Stroman took that momentum into the eighth inning when he retired the side in order while striking out two more batters. The two punchouts gave the freshman right-hander 15 strikeouts in his first 10 innings of work at Duke.
Stroman came on to pitch the ninth and surrendered two more runs, but notched his second save of the year. The win gives Duke its second victory over a top-25 opponent this season and its first ACC victory of the year.
Duke will have a chance to win the series on Sunday, March 13, at 1 p.m. at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Duke will throw right-hander Dennis O'Grady (0-0, 1.17 ERA) in his first start of the year opposite North Carolina right-hander Colin Bates (3-0, 3.57 ERA).