DURHAM, N.C. – Senior Jordan Betts turned in a 5-for-7, five RBI performance and sophomore Michael Matuella was dominant on the mound to lead the Duke baseball team to two wins Saturday afternoon at Jack Coombs Field. The Blue Devils defeated Binghamton, 7-3, in game one before downing the Bearcats, 5-1, in game two to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2008.
“I thought we got better as the day went along,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “I thought we might have been a little bit tight early. I tip my hat to Binghamton. They’ve got a really good club. Both of their starting pitchers threw well. The stories of the day are that are pitchers were effective and we did a really good job of hitting with two outs and runners in scoring position. We made our hits count, which is something we talked about in the preseason and our guys did a good job of that.”
Betts matched career highs in both hits and RBI, driving in four runs on a 3-for-3 performance in Duke’s season-opening win. The Wilmington, N.C., native’s bases-loaded triple in the bottom of the first gave Duke a 3-0 lead it would not relinquish the rest of the game.
“I really felt Jordan started to catch fire in our last intersquad and he did a really good job of carrying it forward into today,” Pollard added. “All through the preseason watching, you felt he was about ready to break out. The ball really started to fall in in that last scrimmage and he carried it over into today.”
The Blue Devils’ three-run cushion held till the third when the Bearcats’ John Howell crossed the plate on a 6-4-3 double play. Duke starter Trent Swart then got the strikeout to end the frame.
Swart (1-0) earned the win in game one, tossing 5.0 innings while permitting just the lone run in the third. The junior lefthander allowed four hits, walked two batters and struck out five.
A Betts double off the wall in left plated junior Grant McCabe, who walked with one out in the sixth, to extend Duke’s lead back to three at 4-1.
A pair of unearned runs in the eighth reduced the Blue Devils’ advantage to 4-3 before Duke opened up the game with three runs of its own in the bottom portion of the frame. After Binghamton intentionally walked Betts to set up first and third with two outs, redshirt junior Aaron Cohn delivered the RBI single to keep the inning alive. Sophomore Kenny Koplove followed suit with a base knock of his own, plating a pair in the process.
Binghamton starter Jack Rogalla (0-1) suffered the loss as the right-hander allowed three runs on three hits over 5.0 innings pitched.
Matuella was brilliant in his first start of the 2014 campaign, setting a career standard with nine strikeouts. The Great Falls, Va., native did not permit a baserunner over his 5.0 innings of work as the Bearcats were unable to get a ball out of the infield off of Duke’s sophomore right-hander.
“That was dominant,” Pollard said. “He was really, really in control. His stuff was really good today. He did a great job of commanding and attacking. He’s got really electric stuff and he showed it today.”
McCabe drew his fourth walk of the afternoon with one out in the third and crossed home plate on a Chris Marconcini RBI single to put Duke up 1-0.
Matuella gave way to classmate Nick Hendrix (1-0) in the sixth as Binghamton pushed across its lone run of the game. A leadoff walk followed by a sacrifice bunt set the tables for Reed Gamache, who sent an RBI single to right field. Hendrix induced two ground balls to work out of the frame and pitched a perfect seventh to earn the win.
Junior Reed Anthes scorched his third single of the contest to score Betts, who doubled for the second time today with one out in the sixth. Koplove added an RBI double of his own to provide Duke a two-run margin, 3-1.
RBI base hits off the bats and Marconcini and Betts in the seventh made it a 5-1 game. Senior Robert Huber took the mound for the final six outs, striking out five of the six batters he faced to seal the victory.
“I thought we pitched great today, especially in that second game,” Pollard said. “Fourteen strikeouts, two walks, two hits – that’s pretty effective. We pitched pretty well in the first game, too. We just had too many walks.”
Duke and Binghamton square off in the series finale Sunday with first pitch set for 1 p.m. from Jack Coombs Field.