HIGH POINT, N.C. - Will Piwnica-Worms went 4-for-5 with four RBI and was a triple short of hitting for the cycle as Duke took down High Point 13-11 on Wednesday evening at Williard Stadium.
Piwnica-Worms homered for the third time in his last four games while senior outfielder Jeremy Gould finished 3-for-5 with a double and four RBI. The Blue Devils scored seven runs over the final three innings before senior left-hander Christopher Manno struck out the side in the ninth for the second straight day to preserve the win.
Duke leadoff hitter Jake Lemmerman and two-hitter Ryan McCurdy set the table for the Blue Devils (25-18, 7-14 ACC) from atop the lineup and combined for seven runs. Lemmerman went 3-for-4 with a walk while McCurdy reached safely three times.
The Blue Devils also got two RBI apiece from sophomore outfielders Joe Pedevillano and Brian Litwin and a three-inning relief appearance from sophomore Ben Grisz (3-1), who surrendered just one run to notch the win. Manno also clinched his third save of the season with a perfect ninth inning just one day after claiming a ninth-inning win in relief against North Carolina A&T. Manno struck out the side in the ninth for the second straight game, giving him six consecutive strikeouts in his last two appearances.
High Point (22-23) totaled 15 hits, but could not keep up with the Duke offense. The Blue Devils overcame a 5-for-5, three-RBI effort from High Point junior Nate Roberts who hit a two-run homer in his last at bat. Roberts, hitting in the three spot in the batting order, was part of a 2-3-4 lineup combination that went 10-for-13 with seven RBI and six runs scored.
The Blue Devil offense got started early, jumping ahead 2-0 in the top of the first inning. Gould, who came to the plate with runners at the corners, drove in both runs with a two-out double to the left field gap. The two-bagger was his team-leading 15th of the season and the 52nd of his career, which moved the senior outfielder into sole possession of sixth place on Duke's all-time list.
Duke and High Point traded runs to bring the score to 3-1 in the bottom of the third, but the Blue Devil defense committed three uncharacteristic errors in that inning that allowed the Panthers to take a 4-3 lead. Roberts and cleanup hitter Matt Gantner both tagged RBI singles in that frame as the Panthers sent eight batters to the plate.
High Point temporarily lost that lead in the top of the fourth when Litwin drove in two runs with a two-out single for the Blue Devils. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, however, High Point came right back with four hits and two more runs in the bottom half of the fourth to reclaim a one-run lead at 6-5. The middle of the Panthers lineup continued to plague starter Michael Ness, who surrendered three more singles to the 2-3-4 combination of Mike Mercurio, Roberts and Gantner. Through the first four innings, that trio was 8-for-9 with five RBI and four runs.
The Blue Devils bounced back in the fifth and tied the game at 6-6 on Gould's third RBI of the game. Duke had a chance to reclaim the lead in the fifth with runners on second and third with one out, but High Point reliever Spencer Andrews entered the game and retired two straight Blue Devils to get out of the jam with just one run allowed.
The Panther offense maintained its momentum in the bottom half of the fifth, however, and took an 8-6 lead on an RBI double from Drew Geissinger and an RBI single from leadoff batter Pablo Rosario.
The lead switched one more time in the seventh, however, when the Blue Devils plated four more runs to jump back on top 10-8. Pedevillano had a two-run double and Gould knocked another RBI single in the inning, which saw Duke's first five hitters reach base.
One last big inning from the Blue Devils all but secured the win, as a three-run homer from Piwnica-Worms put Duke on top 13-8. High Point would close that deficit in their next turn with a three-run eighth that featured Roberts' two-run homer, but got no closer as Manno came out of the bullpen in the ninth and struck out the side to close out the two-run win.
The Blue Devils, who improved to 18-4 against non-conference teams with the win, begin the final stretch of the regular season this weekend with a three-game series against No. 1 Virginia at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The series against the Cavaliers will be one of Duke's last three ACC series of the year and Duke's last at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.