DURHAM, N.C. – Nate Freiman drove in five runs in a double header sweep over N.C. Central, helping Duke win the opener 14-1 and the nightcap 9-3, while going 4-for-7 on the day with his 10th home run of the season Tuesday night at Jack Coombs Field.
Freiman had a single, double and home run in the opener and an RBI triple in game two. Duke’s everyday first baseman, Freiman also donned the catcher’s gear in game two and threw out all three Eagle base runners that tried to steal against him. Duke (22-11, 7-8 ACC) caught five runners stealing on the day, two of which were by regular starter Matt Williams, who has now caught eight this season. Williams also drove in four runs in game one with a pair of hits to reach the 30-RBI plateau for the first time in his career.
Starting pitchers Kyle Butler (2-0) and Joe Pedevillano (1-0) each turned in career-long five-inning starts with Butler notching the win in game one and Pedevillano picking up his first career win in game two. Butler, a senior, held the Eagles (4-17) to five hits and one run in the opener while matching a career high with three strikeouts. Pedevillano, a freshman, allowed just four Eagles to reach base safely and gave up three runs in his five innings of work while setting a career high with three strikeouts. It was the first career start for both Duke pitchers, who allowed senior Tim Sherlock and sophomore Dennis O'Grady to close out the games with two scoreless innings each.
Duke Infielder Ryan McCurdy, who played second base, shortstop and third base in the twinbill, reached safely in all seven of his plate appearances, going 3-for-3 with a walk in game one and 2-for-2 with a walk in game two. He crossed the plate twice in each game. O’Grady also hammered his first career home run in game two in a 2-for-3 performance.
The Blue Devils pounded 17 hits off the Eagles in game one and 10 in game two to raise their team batting average to .318. The Blue Devils turned three double
Game One: Freiman Sends In Four Runs And Comes Away A Triple Short Of Cycle
Freiman reached base in all five of his plate appearances and was a triple short of hitting for the cycle. He was hit by a pitch twice, hit a solo home run, drove in two runs with a double and one more with a base hit in his final at bat. Williams, meanwhile, went 2-for-3 with a pair of walks.
Duke batted around in two separate innings and sent all nine starters across the plate at least once with Freiman, Alex Hassan, Brian Litwin and Ryan McCurdy each scoring twice. McCurdy went 3-for-3 in his first start of the season at second base, while Litwin, Jeremy Gould, Will Piwnica-Worms and Jake Lemmerman each had two hits.
The 14 runs were plenty to support a one-run outing by Butler, who tossed a career-long five innings and scattered five hits. He gave up a run in the first inning, but went on to shut out the Eagles through his final four frames. Senior left-hander Tim Sherlock took over in the sixth and held N.C. Central scoreless on three hits for the remainder of the game.
The Eagles strung together three hits to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning before the Blue Devils bailed Butler out of a bases-loaded jam by turning their 31st double play of the year. Butler retired the first batter he faced, but then gave up a double down the left field line to Jenkins, who scored on the next at bat on Scott’s single. A Blake Murray walk and an Edward Pegues single then loaded the bases with one out, but Butler got Kurt Wilson to roll a ground ball to Lemmerman, who flipped it to McCurdy at second base to start the double play.
Duke used just two at bats to get the run back in the bottom of the second and tied the score on a single from Williams. With Hassan standing on second base following a dropped fly ball in the outfield, Williams dropped a base hit just inside of the right field foul line to send in his 27th RBI of the season. Duke would go on to load the bases with no outs in the inning, but came away empty-handed after Strickland got three straight outs to end the inning.
Butler had a much smooth outing in the second inning and retired the side in order. He struck out the last two batters he faced on 1-2 breaking balls and used just 13 pitches to get through the bottom of N.C. Central’s lineup.
N.C. Central got a leadoff single from Akeem Hood in the top of the third, but had that base hit erased by Williams, who caught Hood stealing second base. Williams received a pitch out on the second pitch to Jenkins and fired a strike to second base where McCurdy applied the tag. It was the seventh time this season that Williams caught a runner trying to take a free base.
Duke loaded the bases with one out in the third, but once again came away empty-handed. Strickland put Duke’s first two batters on base, walking Williams and hitting Freiman, and then surrendered a one-out single to shallow right field to Piwnica-Worms. With the three Blue Devils occupying every base, Strickland buckled down and forced two straight popups to escape the jam and keep the score tied at 1-1.
Butler, meanwhile, turned in another 1-2-3 inning in the fourth and needed just 10 pitches to get through the inning. He picked up his third strikeout of the game, matching a career high, and also worked past the third inning for the first time in his career.
Duke loaded the bases again with no outs in the bottom of the fourth and finally broke the game open with a seven-run inning. Duke knocked seven hits and sent 12 batters to the plate in the inning, including eight straight before the Eagles got their first out on an RBI fielder’s choice. After the Eagles gave Duke two runs with a throwing error on a bases-loaded pickoff and a bases-loaded walk, Freiman kept the rally going with a two-run double to the right field gap. Duke reloaded the bases after the two-bagger on an infield single by Gould and a bunt single by Piwnica-Worms before the Blue Devils got another infield single from Lemmerman and an RBI single by Will Currier, which was his first knock of the season. N.C. Central then changed pitchers and brought in left-hander Matt Lee, who got a fielder’s choice ground ball from Lemmerman before rolling a double play to end the rally.
Williams caught another Eagle base runner stealing second in the top of the fifth for his second of the game. The throw down to second base allowed Butler to face the minimum three batters in his final inning of work before he handed the ball to senior classmate Tim Sherlock in the sixth.
Freiman increased Duke’s lead to eight runs with a solo homer in the bottom of the fifth, giving the senior his 10th long ball of the year. Freiman ripped Lee’s 2-1 offering well over the left field fence to become the first Blue Devil 1995-96 to hit double-digit home runs in consecutive seasons. The solo shot also moved Freiman into a tie for fourth place on Duke’s career home list alongside Greg Maluchnik, who mashed 33 homers from 1995-98.
Sherlock pitched well enough to get five outs in the top of the sixth, and he needed to after Freiman made a pair of errors at third base. Freiman, who made his first career start over at third, bobbled a pair of ground balls from N.C. Central’s first two batters. Sherlock got himself out of the inning unharmed, however, by retiring the next three Eagles without letting a ball get out of the infield.
The Blue Devils batted around again the bottom of the sixth on the way to a five-run inning that increased their lead to 14-1. Duke sent seven hitters to the plate before N.C. Central made a pitching change and brought in right-hander Timothy Rennard, who sat down Duke’s next three hitters to limit the damage to five runs.
Robert Landis broke up a three-inning hitless streak for N.C. Central with a line drive single back up the middle in the top of the seventh for the first of two straight singles for the Eagles. Scott would also knock out a single in the inning, but Sherlock kept any runs from scoring after retiring Murray to end the game.
Game Two: Pedevillano Nets First Career Win; O’Grady Tags First Career Home Run
Kurt Wilson gave N.C. Central its first run of the game by stealing home in the bottom of the second. Wilson, who reached with a double down the left field line, got a free pass to third base on a balk and took off for home on the next pitch. Justin Goodson was in the box and tried to put down a squeeze bunt, but missed the pitch, which was well off the plate in the left-handed batters box. The pitch was just far enough outside that Freiman had to lunge over to grab it, giving Wilson just enough room to slide in head first for the stolen base.
Duke got the run back and added one ore in the bottom of the second to take a 2-1 lead. Jones followed an RBI single from Litwin with an RBI triple to the right field gap. It was the first extra-base hit of the season for Jones, who roped Cobb’s 0-2 offering into the right field gap and hustled all the way around the bases to slide in safe at third base. The three-bagger was also Duke’s third triple in the last four games.
After Williams had caught two runners stealing in game one, Freiman, who started behind the plate in game two, set out to match his senior classmate in the same category. He threw out the first base runner he had a chance to, gunning down Oliver Jenkins at second base to erase a two-out single from the Eagle two-hitter.
The Eagles got back on top 3-2 in the top of the fourth after putting their first two batters on base and sending them in with an RBI groundout and a sacrifice fly. Following the two run-scoring outs, Freiman threw out his second runner stealing second in as many innings after gunning down Wilson on his way to second base.
The one-run Eagle lead was short-lived, however, as N.C. Central’s two-run inning awoke Duke’s bats and sparked a five-run fourth inning for the Blue Devils. Duke batted around in the inning and got five hits, including a three-run double by Piwnica-Worms and an RBI single by Freiman. Ryan McCurdy drove in the first run of the inning with an RBI single, and reached base in his sixth straight plate appearance in the process. That kept the bases full for Piwnica-Worms, who crushed a deep fly ball to straight away center that burned Eagle outfielder Oliver Jenkins and two-hopped the fence. Just after his double cleared the bases, however, Piwnica-Worms was caught stealing third for the second out. Duke would still manage to squeak one more run out of the inning after Freiman followed O’Grady’s two-out walk with an RBI triple to the right field gap. It was only the second career triple for Freiman and the first since his freshman year.
Following the career-long five-inning start from Pedevillano, O’Grady took over on the mound for Duke and saw just three hitters in a quick sixth inning. He gave up a leadoff single to Jenkins, but quickly erased it by rolling a ground ball that Jake Lemmerman fielded and turned into Duke’s third double play of the twinbill. He then got Blake Murray swinging on three pitches, the last of which was a breaking ball that he swung at and tipped right into Freiman’s glove.
O’Grady turned around and ripped a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth to help himself out by increasing Duke’s lead to 9-3 heading into the top of the seventh. O’Grady’s bomb was the first of his career and drove in McCurdy, who reached with a one-out double.
O’Grady gave up a pair of leadoff singles to start the seventh, but Freiman threw out one trying to steal third for his third caught stealing of the game. O’Grady would then go on to strike out three batters, one of which extended the inning when O’Grady’s strikeout pitch went into the dirt to give Goodson a chance to reach first base. Freiman fielded the ball and fired to first base, but pegged Goodson in the helmet for a two-base error. His next two throws were on target, however, as he completed two more strikeouts with fielding assists to first base to end the game.
Duke will continue its midweek slate with a 6 p.m. meeting against UNC Greensboro on Wednesday, April 8, at 6 p.m. in Greensboro, N.C. Freshman Trevor Cesar (2-1, 5.28 ERA) will take the ball for Duke in search of his third straight win. Duke will then host NC State for a three-game series at Jack Coombs Field on April 10-12.