WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The Duke baseball team scored four runs in the first and held off a furious Wake Forest rally late to clinch the series with a 6-5 victory Saturday afternoon at the Wake Forest Baseball Park.
Junior Trent Swart (4-1) turned in seven scoreless innings to help Duke (27-17, 14-9 ACC) to its eighth consecutive victory. In his longest outing since returning from injury, Swart scattered six singles and struck out nine. The left-hander struck out at least one batter in each frame, extending his scoreless inning streak to 17.0.
After Duke tallied four runs on four hits in the first, senior Jordan Betts added a pair of solo home runs down the stretch to account for the Blue Devils offensive production. The Blue Devils took a 6-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth before Wake Forest (26-20, 12-11 ACC) scored five runs over the final two innings to threaten the Duke advantage.
After retiring the leadoff hitter, Wake Forest starter Garrett Kelly (1-2) ran into trouble as six straight Blue Devils reached base to give Duke a 4-0 cushion in the first. An Andy Perez base hit began the rally before Kelly walked both Betts and Chris Marconcini to load the bases. Duke then received three consecutive bases-loaded base hits, one each from Aaron Cohn, Matt Berezo and Mike Rosenfeld.
“I thought we had really good at bats early,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “Kelly got us in some two-strike counts and we just did a really good job of battling and came up with some big hits.”
Duke was unable to add to its 4-0, stranding seven runners over the next four frames. The Demon Deacons threatened for the first time with runners at the corners in the fifth, but Swart induced a groundball to escape the jam.
Betts proceeded to send a solo shot to left center in the top of the sixth and added a second homer in the eighth to put Duke up 6-0. The home runs were Betts’ third and fourth of the season, bringing his career total to 16.
“We talk a lot about how there are no meaningless runs,” Pollard said. “We left 11 guys on base. We had our opportunities to push the lead out and didn’t do it. In this ballpark, the way the ball flies, you just have to take every opportunity you can to put a team away. [Wake Forest is] a good team with some power in their bats. They ran a couple out of the yard late and made it a close ballgame, so those two home runs by Betts were really important.”
The Demon Deacons again looked to rally as Will Craig and Conor Kiniry both singled to start the seventh. However, Swart was able to once again escape unscathed. The Carlsbad, Calif., native struck out the next two batters looking before Evan Stephens chopped one back to the mound for the final out.
“Trent [Swart] was dominant,” Pollard said. “He had an unbelievable ballgame. Pitched great. That was the furthest he’s gone since the injury. I was really impressed with the job he did in the seventh inning.”
Duke’s comfortable six-run lead dwindled to two in the bottom of the eighth. Wake Forest rallied for four runs with two outs after Nate Mondou and Kiniry both sent two-run home runs to right.
A Matt Conway RBI single in the bottom of the ninth plated Ben Breazeale, who drew the leadoff walk, to trim the lead to 6-5. With runners at the corners, senior Robert Huber got Mondou to fly out to center for the final out, preserving the win and picking up his ninth save of the season.
The Blue Devils and the Demon Deacons go head to head in the series finale Sunday. Duke’s Michael Matuella (1-1, 1.59 ERA) takes the mound against a Wake Forest’s Connor Kaden (2-3, 4.37 ERA).