Duke baseball overpowers N.C. Central in crosstown duel
For the Blue Devils, home field advantage might as well mean any field in Durham.
Duke continued its domination of the Triangle against N.C. Central with an 11-2 win Wednesday at the Durham Athletic Park. The Eagles had no answer for a strong Blue Devil pitching lineup supported by an efficient offensive effort.
“I thought there were a lot of positives. I thought we played a good game defensively,” head coach Chris Pollard said. “We were opportunistic in terms of taking advantage of some of the walks and turning it into offense, which is something that we talk about a lot.”
Duke’s offense jumped out to 9-0 lead behind a combination of hits and walked-in runs. N.C. Central’s six pitchers combined for 13 walks on the evening, with the walk total equal to the Blue Devils’ runs scored at the end of five innings. A home run over right field by pinch hitter David Perkins in the eighth inning sealed the win for Duke, its second in two weeks against its Durham foe.
Keeping the Eagles (15-22) scoreless with just two hits after four innings, junior Andrew Istler earned his fifth win of the season. Istler notched six strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 2.89 before surrendering the mound to David Haviland, who would be the first of six other Blue Devil pitchers that would take the mound before the night was over.
“Istler had a good start, pitched well. We got him out of there right where we wanted his pitch count to be,” Pollard said. “I really liked the outing by J.R. Holloway, who came in in the eighth [and] was very aggressive.”
The Duke pitchers could relax due to a successful offensive performance, stretching their runs across four innings in a consistent outing overall. Chris Marconcini—whose only hit of the day stayed in the park by only a few feet—knocked in three runs, and Aaron Cohn led the Blue Devils with three hits, an RBI, and two runs scored.
Heading into the bottom of the sixth with a comfortable nine-run lead, Duke (21-17) had to regroup as the Eagles scored two runs off of four hits against Haviland. Junior Sarkis Ohanian took to the mound shortly after, managing to keep the rest of the lineup away from first and end the inning.
“I give a lot of credit to Sarkis Ohanian…. He did a good job of picking up the team right there because he made some pitches, kept the runs off the board [and] got us back in the dugout,” Pollard said. “I thought it was a good job of our team not panicking, just continuing to play.”
To demoralize N.C. Central even further after its attempted rally, Perkins stepped into designated hitter Matt Berezo’s slot to fire off his second homer of the season and bat in two runs. The score would stay at 11-2 as the Eagles tallied just one more hit for the rest of the game.
The two teams faced one another just last week at Jack Coombs field, where Duke was victorious yet again, having won all 14 of the programs’ contests. Playing at the Eagles’ home field also meant a visit to the historic Durham Athletic Park—the original home of AAA Durham Bulls team as well as the filming site for the movie Bull Durham.
“It’s a thrill for our kids. Every single one of these guys has seen the movie probably ten times, so it is a thrill to be able to say you played in this park,” Pollard said. “You start to hear guys riding over on the bus quoting lines from the movie. It’s fun to be in such a historic place and feel the history that’s associated with the movie.”
Duke has been on a roll from within the confines of Durham city limits, notching four wins in the past five games. With all five matchups coming against Triangle teams, the Blue Devils boost their season record against fellow area teams to an impressive 7-1 on the season.
Much to their dismay, the Blue Devils will have to leave the Triangle area for their next game in a return to ACC play Friday as they kickoff a series at Virginia Tech. The Hokies are 18-17 overall with a 7-11 conference record and enter the weekend’s series fresh off their own nonconference win at Liberty.