DURHAM, N.C. - Jake Lemmerman homered for the second straight game and freshman Devin Burke notched his second win as Duke defeated N.C. Central 11-2 on Wednesday evening at the historic Durham Athletic Park.
Lemmerman mashed a three-run shot - his team-leading sixth of the season - in the first inning for his second home run in as many days. The home run extended Lemmerman's hitting streak to a team-best nine games, a span in which he has delivered three doubles, three home runs and nine RBI.
Senior Jeremy Gould also homered for Duke (16-9, 3-6 ACC) and Will Piwnica-Worms scored three runs to back a five-inning start from Burke (2-1). Burke gave up just one run and held the Eagles (0-24) scoreless over his last four innings. A 6-1, 200 pound right-hander, Burke struck out a career-high five batters while scattering five hits. Duke then used the bullpen trio of Trevor Cesar, Jonathan Foreman and Gould to hold N.C. Central to one run over the final four innings.
N.C. Central got its lone RBI from catcher Blake Murray, who homered in the eighth inning, and first baseman Derrell Parker, who had a two-out single in the first inning. The Eagle pitching staff had trouble finding the plate and issued eight walks and hit three batters. Duke needed just eight hits to record double-digit runs for the second straight game.
The Blue Devils also played errorless defense for the fourth time in the last five games. Duke leads the ACC and ranks fifth nationally with a .980 fielding percentage, having made just 19 errors in 25 games this season.
Lemmerman got Duke's offense going early, crushing a three-run homer to right-center field to open a four-run rally. The Blue Devils drew three walks in the inning and also had a hit batter as six hitters reached base safely in the opening frame. Freshman Mike Carroll also slapped a two-out RBI single in the inning for Duke's fourth run.
N.C. Central responded with a two-out RBI single from Parker in the bottom of the first to trim the deficit to 4-1. Parker's single came with two-hitter Kurt Wilson on second base and gave the speedy Eagles third baseman just enough time to come around and score.
The Blue Devils took advantage of a few more N.C. Central miscues in the top of the second and plated four more runs to jump ahead 8-1. Starter Brandon Oatis put two more Blue Devils on base with a leadoff walk and a hit batter and got no help from his defense when Wilson misplayed a ground ball to third base. Duke loaded the bases following the error and got an RBI groundout from Gould before a double from Piwnica-Worms, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly from Will Currier gave Duke its final three runs of the inning.
Gould got in on the action in the top of the fourth and led off the inning with a towering home run to straightaway center field. His solo shot would be the first of three runs in the inning, as Duke took advantage of two more N.C. Central errors to go ahead 11-1. Duke had just two hits in the inning - the other an infield knock from Carroll - but got five outs to work with thanks to the two Eagle errors.
After giving up N.C. Central's lone run in the bottom of the first inning, Burke settled down and shut out the Eagles over his next four frames. Burke picked up all five of his strikeouts during that stretch and allowed just two runners to advance past first base. Burke ran into some trouble in the bottom of the fifth when Nate Smith banged a two-out triple off the right-center field wall, but stranded the runner by inducing a foulout.
The Eagles used a pair of relievers to quell Duke's offense in the fifth through seventh innings. After Duke scored a combined eight runs in the first four innings off of Oatis and David Scott, N.C. Central right-handers Drew Robinson and Douglas Dalley held Duke scoreless for three straight frames.
Duke also went to its bullpen in the sixth and called on Cesar to take over for Burke. Cesar kept the Eagles hitless over his two innings while picking up two strikeouts before Foreman took over in the third.
Murray broke up N.C. Central's scoreless streak with a solo home run in the top of the eighth that cut the deficit to 11-2. The junior catcher took the second pitch he saw and deposited it over the center field wall for his first home run of the year. Foreman, who entered the game at the start of the inning, rebounded from the home run ball to strike out the next three batters he faced.
N.C. Central used three more relievers over the final two innings to keep Duke stalled at 11 runs. The Eagles offense could not match that effort, however, as Gould took the mound and pitched a scoreless ninth inning to close out Duke's 12th consecutive non-conference victory.
Up next for Duke a three-game ACC series at No. 3 Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Ga., this Friday through Sunday, April 2-4. First pitch on Friday is slated for 6 p.m. at Russ Chandler Stadium.
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