DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke baseball team dropped its season-opening game on Wednesday, falling to High Point, 5-1, at Jack Coombs Field. The Blue Devils start the season 0-1 while the Panthers improve to 2-1 with the win.
High Point grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the second and held the lead for good the rest of the afternoon. Right fielder Chris Norwood led off the inning with a walk and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Dustin Holtzman. Center fielder Ryan Laboy drew a walk in the next at-bat to give the Panthers runners on the corners. High Point scored the first run of the game when catcher Billy Aguiar grounded out to third, scoring Norwood. Laboy advanced to second on Aguiar’s groundout and then advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a bunt single by shortstop Alfie Wheeler.
Duke made it a one-run game in the bottom of the fourth inning on an RBI-single by designated hitter Javier Socorro. Shortstop Brett Bartles singled to left to start the inning and then advanced to second on a walk to center fielder Jimmy Gallagher. Bartles then reached third base on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Nate Freiman before Socorro laced the RBI-single to left field.
The Panthers scored a run in the sixth on an RBI-single from center fielder J. Williams and added two runs in the seventh to put the game out of reach. After designated hitter Chris Marks was retired on a fly out to left to start the inning, Norwood reached first after being hit by a pitch from freshman Jimmy Saris. Norwood then stole second to give High Point a runner in scoring position. Holtzman followed by drawing a walk to give the Panthers runners at first and second.
After Laboy was retired on a called third strike, Aguiar laced a two-out RBI-single up the middle, scoring Norwood and advancing Holtzman to third. Wheeler followed with an RBI-double down the right field line, scoring Holtzman to give High Point the 5-1 lead.
Panthers starter Matt Christie (1-0) earned his first win of the season, holding the Blue Devils to one run on four hits in 5.0 innings of work. Duke starter Tony Bajoczky (0-1) suffered his first loss of the year, allowing two runs on seven hits in 5.0 innings pitched.
Socorro led the way for Duke, going 3-for-4 at the plate with one RBI. Third baseman Jonathan Nicolla added a 2-for-4 performance while Bartles and Gallagher added one hit apiece.
Aguiar and Wheeler each had two hits and two RBI to lead High Point. Third baseman Jeff Cowan and first baseman Randy Schwartz also collected two hits apiece for the Panthers. Norwood, who was 1-for-2 on the day, scored two of High Point’s five runs.
Reliever Nolan Mulligan pitched 2.0 scoreless innings for the Panthers, allowing two hits while striking out three. Marks added 1.1 perfect innings to close out the game, retiring all five Blue Devils he faced.
Saris recorded a team-high three strikeouts in his first collegiate appearance for Duke while junior Danny Otero pitched a scoreless ninth for the Blue Devils.
“Our kids played hard today,” stated Duke Head Coach Sean McNally. “It’s always disappointing to lose but our effort was good. We caught the ball well, pitched out of some tough spots and did a lot of positive things. It was the first college game for four of our freshmen that played today. It was important that they were able to get some immediate game experience. The key is to take this loss, learn from it and use it to adjust and play more efficiently the next time out.”
The Duke baseball team will host Seton Hall for a three-game series this weekend at Jack Coombs Field. Friday’s game will be at 3 p.m., Saturday’s game is at 1 p.m. and Sunday’s first pitch is scheduled for noon.