DURHAM, N.C. - Chase Bebout held No. 11 Clemson to two runs over a career-high 7.1 innings in his first career ACC start to lead Duke to a series-clinching 7-2 victory in the series finale on Sunday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Bebout (4-0), a freshman who had been Duke's top midweek starter until getting the Sunday call versus Clemson, threw a career-high 114 pitches while holding the Tigers to just six hits. The 6-6, 210-pound right-hander struck out five batters on the way to a win in his first career ACC appearance.
Bebout got plenty of early run support from his offense, beginning with a two-run homer from senior Will Currier who homered for the fourth straight. The 6-4, 215-pound Currier crushed the home run in his first at bat of the day to give himself four home runs and nine RBI in four games this week. He also extended his hitting streak to a career-best seven games and drove in at least one run for the ninth straight outing.
Duke also got a solo home run from junior Dennis O'Grady, a two-run single from freshman Eric Brady and an RBI double from senior Jeremy Gould. Behind the 10-hit, seven-run outburst, the Blue Devils never trailed and won their second series versus a top-15 opponent this season.
Reliever Ben Grisz took over for Bebout midway through the eighth inning and recorded the final four outs of the game. The appearance was the third of the week for Grisz, who helped preserve Friday's 10-9 victory over Clemson and Tuesday's 9-5 victory versus William and Mary.
Duke scored four runs off of Clemson starter Will Lamb (3-2), who gave up both of Duke's home runs in his 3.0 innings of work. Clemson then went to its bullpen and used three relievers, but Duke scored three more times off of that group to lead by no less than three runs for the remainder of the game.
Timely hits were key in Duke's win, as the Blue Devils went 5-for-11 (.455) with two outs on the board and stranded just four base runners. Brian Litwin, Marcus Stroman and Brady combined for three straight two-strike, two-out singles in the bottom of the sixth inning when Duke increased its lead to 6-1.
Currier extended his home run streak almost immediately with a two-run shot in the bottom of the first inning. His third blast of the series cleared the 32-foot wall in left-center field and put Duke on top 2-0 as senior Ryan McCurdy was on base following a leadoff walk. The home run was the seventh of the season for Currier, who has blasted six out of the park in his last nine games.
Bebout was able to protect that lead through his first three innings, though Clemson cut the deficit to 2-1 in the top of the third inning. A leadoff walk to nine-hitter Addison Johnson came back to hurt Bebout when Chris Epps and Mike Freeman followed with consecutive singles to drive in the run. Bebout settled down and got out of the inning with Duke's lead still intact by forcing two flyouts and picking off Epps at second base.
Duke took that run right back in the bottom of the third, thanks to a two-out RBI double from Gould that scored Currier all the way from first base. Currier reached after taking a pitch off his elbow and hustled all the way around the bases on Gould's double, which hit the top of the left field wall extended the senior's hitting streak to 12 games.
O'Grady ripped one out of the park in Duke's next turn to put the Blue Devils on top 4-1 when he led off the fourth inning with a solo shot to left field for his first home run of the season. It also prompted a pitching change as the Tigers brought in David Haselden to replace Lamb, who stayed in the game as the designated hitter. Haselden went on to retire six of the next seven batters he faced to keep the deficit at 4-1.
Duke got to Haselden in the bottom of the sixth, however, and scored twice on Brady's two-out single. Brady's single actually came against reliever Alex Frederick, who replaced Haselden after the Blue Devils tagged him for two straight two-strike, two-out singles. Brady continued that trend with another two-strike knock to score both Litwin and Stroman who had the first two base hits. Both Litwin and Stroman also stole second base in that inning to put themselves in scoring position for Brady, who knocked a full-count fastball through the left side to send in both runners.
Bebout stayed on in the seventh and needed just seven pitches to retire the side in order. Bebout eclipsed the 100-pitch mark for the first time in his career during that inning while holding the Tigers scoreless for the fourth straight frame.
Bebout picked up one more strikeout in the top of the eighth, but was pulled after surrendering a one-out double to Clemson two-hitter Mike Freeman. Grisz then took over on the mound and gave up an RBI single to three-hitter Jeff Schaus, but retired the next two batters to take Duke's 6-2 lead into the bottom of the eighth.
The Blue Devils got one more insurance run in the top of the eighth to build a 7-2 lead heading into the final frame. Grisz stayed on and surrendered two one-out singles, but then rolled a double play ground ball to Lemmerman, who stepped on second and then fired to first to end the game.
Up next for Duke is a pair of midweek games versus Davidson and UNC Greensboro at the USA Baseball National Training Complex on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 13-14. Both games begin at 6 p.m. in Cary, N.C.