DURHAM, N.C. - Danny Hultzen struck out a career-high 13 batters in his first career complete game to lead No. 1 Virginia past Duke 12-3 in the series opener on Friday evening at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Hultzen (7-1) surrendered just four hits and two earned runs without walking a batter over his nine innings of work. The sophomore left-hander retired the last 10 hitters he faced and gave up just one hit after the third inning.
Tyler Cannon and John Hicks led the Virginia offense with three RBI apiece, including a three-run homer from Hicks. The Cavaliers tagged 16 hits in the game, including a triple and a double from junior outfielder Jarrett Parker. Second baseman Keith Werman also tagged four hits to improve his batting average to .470 on the year.
Duke senior Jeremy Gould provided the bulk of Duke's offense with a solo homer and an RBI single. Starting pitcher Dennis O'Grady (0-4) started off strong and battled Hultzen to a 2-2 tie heading into the fifth inning. The Cavaliers (37-9, 16-6 ACC) got to him in the top of the sixth, however, and scored the go-ahead runs after O'Grady left the game with two men on base.
Both teams traded runs in the first three innings, battling to a 2-2 tie heading into the fourth inning. Gould drove in the first run of the game with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the first before Parker responded for Virginia in the top of the second by tripling off the left field wall and scoring on a sacrifice fly from Cannon.
The Blue Devils would then take a temporary 2-1 lead on a sacrifice fly from freshman Eric Brady before the Cavaliers struck right back with a two-out RBI double from Parker that tied the game at 2-2. O'Grady and Hultzen combined for nine strikeouts over those first three innings without either pitcher surrendering a walk.
Virginia finally got to O'Grady in the top of the sixth and tagged him for two runs after he was pulled from the mound. O'Grady gave up singles to Cannon and Hicks to start the inning before reliever Ben Grisz took the mound and surrendered a two-run, first-strike single to Reed Gragnani. The Cavaliers would send in another run following a bases-loaded walk from reliever Jonathan Foreman but had the rally killed when Foreman - Duke's third pitcher of the inning - struck out two straight to strand all three base runners.
Gould provided Duke with a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the sixth to trim the deficit to 5-3. Foreman held that score in check in the top of the seventh when he struck out the side, giving him five consecutive strikeouts.
The Cavalier offense would not be held down for long, however, as Hicks capped a six-run seventh inning with a three-run homer over the left field wall. Virginia took advantage of three walks while batting around in the inning to put the game away with an eight-run lead.
Hultzen wrapped up the game by retiring the side in order in the eighth and ninth, striking out two more during that span. He needed just 115 pitches to get through the game, 83 of which were strikes.
With Virginia leading the series 1-0, the Blue Devils have a shot to tie it back up in game two on Saturday, May 1, at 2 p.m. Duke will start freshman right-hander Marcus Stroman (5-1, 3.79 ERA) opposite Virginia right-hander Robert Morey (6-2, 3.98 ERA).