DURHAM, N.C. - Freshman Eric Brady hit a three-run homer and classmate Marcus Stroman struck out seven hitters in four innings to lead Duke to an 8-2 win and a series sweep over Temple Sunday evening at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Brady mashed his first career home run over the 32-foot left field wall as part of a five-run second inning for the Blue Devils (7-3), who won their sixth straight game and improved to 6-0 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Stroman (2-0), meanwhile, came out of the bullpen to throw a career-high four innings in which he surrendered just one run on one hit.
Duke surrendered just two runs - only one earned - during the entire three-game series against Temple (0-10). Included in the series sweep were two consecutive shutouts and a streak of 27 consecutive innings in which Duke pitchers did not surrender an earned run. Over their past 32 innings, the Blue Devils have allowed just one earned run and now boast a 3.58 team ERA.
Temple starter Steve Nikorak did not make it out of the second inning after surrendering three runs - two earned - in 1.1 frames. Duke torched the Owls bullpen for five runs over the remaining innings, while the Blue Devil bullpen gave up just one hit and struck out eight. Temple got its lone offensive production on a solo home run from infielder Rafael Cordero and a sacrifice fly from infielder Elijah Yarborough.
The Blue Devils also played errorless defense for the third straight game to improve their fielding percentage to .979.
Duke took an early 1-0 lead on an RBI double from Currier in the top of the first. With two outs and two men base, Currier drove a fly ball to right field that dropped between a charging right fielder and a backtracking Temple first baseman for a hit. The base knock, which Currier legged out for a double, scored Brady from second base after cleanup hitter Jeremy Gould moved him into scoring position with a two-out, two-strike single.
Brady sparked a five-run rally in the second inning for the Blue Devils with his first career home run, a towering three-run bomb that cleared the 32-foot Blue Monster in left field. The long ball was the third hit of the inning for Duke, which opened the rally with a double from O'Grady and a single from senior Ryan McCurdy. With men at the corners after the two base knocks, Temple pulled Nikorak and replaced him with left-hander Dan Moller, but Brady welcomed him to the game by hammering his first pitch over the Blue Monster. Piwnica-Worms followed with a single before Moller put the next three hitters on base by walking two and hitting one. Another Temple pitching change brought in Brian Sustersic, who retired two of the next three hitters, but not before hitting O'Grady with a pitch to bring in Duke's fifth run of the inning.
Temple had its best scoring chance of the series in the top of the third, but came away empty-handed as Foreman spoiled a bases-loaded opportunity. For the first time in the series, the Owls strung together consecutive hits and then drew a walk to load the bases with two outs. Foreman settled down after a mound visit from pitching coach Sean Snedeker, however, and forced a flyout to escape the jam and keep Duke's 6-0 lead intact.
The Owls had better luck in the top of the fourth, however, when a sacrifice fly from Yarborough gave them their first run of the series and trimmed Duke's lead to 6-1. Yarborough's deep fly ball to left field plated Nikorak, who drew one of two walks in the inning after staying in the game as the designated hitter. It also ended a streak of 26 consecutive innings in which Duke pitchers did not allow an earned run.
The Blue Devils went to the bullpen in the top of the fifth and brought in Stroman, who struck out the first two batters he faced on nine pitches. He would not fare as well against Temple cleanup hitter Cordero, however, as Cordero mashed a high fastball over the left field wall for a solo home run. The long ball did little to shift the momentum though, as Stroman ended the inning with another strikeout.
Stroman struck out the side in the top of the sixth, giving the freshman right-hander six punchouts in two innings. Through his first six innings on the mound to start the season, Stroman racked up 11 strikeouts while surrendering just five hits.
Duke took back two runs in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings to rebuild a six-run lead at 8-2. The fifth inning featured a sacrifice fly from Piwnica-Worms while the sixth saw another sac fly from Saade. Saade's sacrifice fly in the sixth scored Currier, who opened the inning with a double that hit off the top of the 32-foot left field wall.
Stroman picked up one more strikeout in a scoreless eighth before handing the ball to junior right-hander Ryan Knott in the ninth. In his first appearance of the year, Knott induced three weak ground balls - including two to himself - to retire the side in order.
Up next for Duke is another set of home games against Quinnipiac on Monday and Tuesday, March 8-9 at 3 p.m. Duke will play both games at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.
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