DURHAM, N.C. – Duke senior Nate Freiman hammered two home runs and drove in seven RBI in the first game, and junior Alex Hassan went 6-for-8 with eight runs, a home run and a save on the day to help Duke sweep a Saturday double header over La Salle, 12-2 and 5-3, at Jack Coombs Field.
It was the sixth career multi-home run game for Freiman, who sent both of his three-run shots over the left field wall in the opener. He finished with three hits in the game – the other an RBI double – and four on the day, settling his batting average to .500 after Duke’s first three games.
Hassan, meanwhile, went 4-for-5 with four runs in the opening game and 2-for-3 with two runs and a solo homer in the nightcap. Hassan also came in from right field to close out game two and struck out three of his four batters faced to preserve the 5-3 win. The 2008 Rawlings Gold Glove winner also turned a double play in the second game by catching a fly ball in right field and firing to first base foil a botched La Salle hit-and-run.
Senior catcher Matt Williams had a pair of RBI in each game for the Blue Devils, going 3-for-5 in game one and 2-for-4 in game two. Williams has now had multiple hits in each of Duke’s first three games after knocking two in the series opener on Friday.
Senior right-hander Andrew Wolcott (1-0) picked up the win in the opener, going seven innings while giving up just four hits and two earned runs. Wolcott struck out six, did not issue a walk and needed just 74 pitches – 56 of which were strikes – to get through his seven frames.
With the wins, Duke (2-1) avenged an opening-day loss and will have a shot to take the four-game series on Sunday at noon. Duke scored early and often in both games, crossing the plate four times in the first inning of game one and three times in the opening frame of game two. Twelve of Duke’s 17 runs on the day came in the first three innings.
Game 1: Freiman’s Two Homers Give Duke 12-2 Win
In addition to Freiman’s two home run, seven-RBI performance and Hassan’s 4-for-5, four-run outing, catcher Matt Williams went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI and Jeremy Gould, Gabriel Saade and Will Piwnica-Worms each logged two hits. Saade also stole two bases, while Gould and Piwnica-Worms each doubled.
Andrew Wolcott (1-0) was solid in the win, scattering four hits and two runs over seven complete innings. The 6-6, 240 pound right-hander struck out six batters and did not issue a walk while throwing just 74 pitches.
La Salle freshman Cody Weiss (0-1) took the loss after giving up seven runs over two innings/ Reliever Eric Van Wyk came into shut Duke’s offense down for four innings, giving up just two hits and no runs. TJ Chism was the only Explorer with multiple hits and one of two with a base knock, tagging a double and a single to send in an RBI.
Wolcott cruised through his first inning, sitting down the side in order on 13 pitches. He struck out the first batter he faced on a 2-2 breaking ball and followed with two groundouts to end the inning.
Freiman put Duke on the board in the bottom of the first with a three-run homer down the left field line. The shot drove in Hassan, who reached with a single to right field on a 1-2 curve ball, and Gould, who followed with a walk. It was the 24th career home run for Freiman, who had a career-best 11 as a junior last season.
Now working with a 3-0 lead following Freiman’s homer, Wolcott went to work as usual and forced three more ground balls to retire the side in the second. All three went to Saade at second base, giving Wolcott five straight groundouts.
Duke added another run in the second on a double to left field by Piwnica-Worms. The hit sent in Saade from third after Duke’s junior second baseman slapped a two-strike single to left field and put himself in scoring position by stealing second and third. With two swipes in the inning, Saade piled up three steals in Duke’s first two games. Duke had a chance to add another run with Piwnica-Worms on second with one out, but Weiss was able to get out of the inning by forcing McCurdy to fly out and getting some help from his catcher, who picked off Piwnica-Worms at second base with Hassan at the plate.
After Wolcott cruised through the third by retiring the side in order yet again, Duke’s offense kept rolling with three more runs in the third, putting the Blue Devils ahead 7-0. Hassan opened the inning with a single that was soon followed by consecutive RBI doubles from Gould and Freiman. After a pitching change that sent Van Wyk to the mound, Williams came through with another double to the right field gap that scored Freiman from second base. That would be the end of the rally, however, as Van Wyk settled down and forced three straight outs to stop the bleeding.
Meanwhile, La Salle finally got on the board in the fourth by taking advantage of two Duke fielding errors to cut the deficit to 7-1. Wolcott had a streak of 10 straight batters retired in the inning when Justin Handler reached on a throwing error on a ground ball to the right side. John Malloy then stepped to the plate and ripped a single to center field to send Handler to second, but center field Piwnica-Worms had trouble getting a handle on it and gave Handler just enough time to advance to third base. Handler would eventually score an unearned run on a base hit through the left side before Wolcott was able to get out of the jam with two straight outs.
Wolcott was undaunted by the two-hit inning though, and regained his form in the fifth and sixth, sitting down six more batters in a row, including his fifth strikeout victim of the game. Through his first six innings, Wolcott gave up just two hits and threw just 61 pitches. He stayed on into the seventh and retired three of his final four hitters, but gave up his first earned run on an RBI groundout by Jon Gyles.
After Williams gave Duke another run to put the Blue Devils ahead 8-2, O’Grady took over on the mound for Duke and sat down all three batters he faced. The Blue Devils were able to produce four more runs in the bottom half of the eighth, thanks to another three-run bomb from Freiman. Freiman’s second long ball of the game came with two outs and cleared the left-center field wall to send in McCurdy and Hassan. Hassan also added an RBI with a run-scoring single that scored Piwnica-Worms from second base.
Ahead 12-2, Duke went to the left-handed Sherlock to close out the game in the ninth inning. In his first career pitching appearance, Sherlock needed just seven pitches – five of which were strikes – to sit down La Salle’s next three hitters and end the game.
Game 2: Duke’s Bullpen Preserves Two-Run Lead In 5-3 Win
The relief duo of sophomore Ryan Knott and junior Alex Hassan helped preserve a two-run lead through over four innings of work to lock up a 5-3 Duke win. Knott (1-0) took over for starter Jonathan Foreman, who scattered three runs over 4.2 innings, and went on to toss 3.1 hitless innings out of the bullpen to earn his first career victory. Hassan then came to the mound from right field and struck out three of his four batters faced to pick up his first save of the season and lock up the win.
Hassan also contributed a solo home run and scored twice, while Matt Williams drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single. Duke’s one through five hitters combined to go 7-for-14 with three RBI and all five runs scored.
Duke wasted no time getting on the board in game two and jumped ahead 4-0 in the first inning. A pair of leadoff walks to Ryan McCurdy and Hassan and a single from Gould set the table for the four-run inning, which started with a two-run single from Williams that developed into a three-run play. With the bases loaded after Gould’s single through the left side, Williams stepped to the plate and ripped a line drive back to Fuqua on the mound. Fuqua deflected the ball to the left side of the infield and it rolled into the outfield grass, allowing McCurdy and Hassan to both come around and score. On the same play though, La Salle left fielder Brendan Norton threw the ball to a vacant third base, and it sailed into the Duke dugout, giving Gould a free pass to the plate and Williams a trip to third base. Williams would then score on the next at bat when Lemmerman grounded out to second base.
After being spotted four runs in the first inning, Foreman kept La Salle scoreless through the first three innings, scattering three hits while striking out two. He got another run in the third, thanks to a solo home run from Hassan that cleared the left field wall. It was the seventh career homer for Hassan and the fourth round-tripper of the year for Duke.
After a quick first three innings, however, Foreman began to struggle with his control and gave way to three runs in the fourth inning, cutting Duke’s lead to 5-3. Chism started the rally for the Explorers by drawing a leadoff walk and moving over to third on an ensuing double off the left field wall by Marc Schoch. The two-bagger put runners at second and third, and another walk to designated hitter Dennis Burge loaded the bases for outfielder Jim Tarabocchia. After pitching coach Sean Snedeker took a trip to the mound to talk with Foreman, Tarabocchia lifted a fly ball to left field to score Chism for La Salle’s first run. Brian Meagher then roped a double to the left-center field gap to send in the final two runs before Foreman ended the inning.
Foreman temporarily regained his form at the start of the fifth, inducing a groundout and a strikeout for the first two outs, but followed by surrendering three straight walks to load the bases. The final walk prompted the Blue Devils to make a pitching change, sending Knott to the mound to inherit the bases-loaded, two-out situation. Knott got the job done, throwing two pitches to force a grounder to Freiman at first base, who gloved the ball and flipped it to Knott to record the final out of the inning.
Knott stayed in form through the sixth and sat down the side on 10 pitches, helping himself out with two fielding assists. Meanwhile, Fuqua also settled in after the four-run first inning and held Duke to just three hits and one run from the second through fifth inning. The fifth inning would be his last, however, as right-hander Kevin Christy took the mound to start the sixth inning. Christy picked up right where Fuqua left off, sitting down two of Duke’s three batters and getting some help from his catcher, who caught Saade stealing second for the first time this season.
Knott continued to give the Explorers plenty of trouble at the plate and stayed perfect into his third inning of work, retiring the first seven batters he faced. That streak finally came to an end in the top of the eighth when he issued a leadoff walk to Schoch, but he rebounded to force a fielder’s choice ground ball for the first out and a fly ball to right field that Hassan caught and threw in to first base to complete a double play and end the inning.
After Christy kept Duke from getting any insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth, Duke called in Hassan to close out the game. The junior right-hander made quick work of the first batter he faced, striking him out with a back door breaking ball on a 2-2 count, but surrendered a double to Norton. But Hassan would never let the tying run reach base, as he responded by striking out the leadoff hitter Jeff Flax and the two-hitter Gyles with his next seven pitches.
Duke and La Salle will complete the four-game series on Sunday at noon at Jack Coombs Field. Junior right-hander Will Currier (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Blue Devils opposite La Salle lefty TJ Chism.
Duke Head Coach Sean McNally
February 21, 2009
On his overall impression of how Duke played Saturday:
"I thought our guys really came out and competed for 18 innings. We had a really good mindset. La Salle played terrific, as they have for all three games. They really challenged us. We had to be at our best to win, and we’ve still got a lot of things we can do better. For this point in the year, we were really challenged, and I thought we responded a lot better than we did on Friday."
On the pitching performance of Andrew Wolcott, who gave up two runs over seven complete innings:
"We needed that from Andrew. He’s been rock solid his whole career, and he really wanted the ball today. He wanted to be the guy to pick us up after dropping our opener, and that’s as well as I’ve seen him throw."
On the offense opening up for 17 runs in the two games:
"Hitting’s contagious. Everybody gets hot sometimes, and sometimes I think everybody early in the year is really pressing. As we get more at bats under our belt, we’ll get better, but certainly Nate (Freiman) took the heat off some guys with how he played in the first game. In the second game, I thought La Salle’s pitchers did a terrific job; they threw off-speed stuff in fastball counts and commanded both sides of the plate well. We had to compete, and we need to do better in certain situations, but we scored enough runs to win and that’s the main thing."