Duke baseball finishes home schedule strong against Richmond
Playing their final home game of the regular season, the Blue Devils cruised to a 10-3 victory against Richmond at Jack Coombs Field Tuesday night. Led by starter Kevin Lewallyn, Duke's pitching staff shut down the Spiders, while the offense exploded for more runs than they totaled in three games against the Hurricanes.
Tuesday's win was especially significant for the Blue Devil seniors in the finale of their home careers. As fate would have it, they faced the same Richmond team they clashed with in their home opener as freshmen Feb. 18, 2011—a 6-5 win.
"It's kind of cool because the senior class, our first game here was versus Richmond at the Coombs," senior third baseman Jordan Betts said. "[It's] kind of interesting. They welcomed us to college baseball at this place and to go out versus them and, fortunately for us, to get the same result."
Duke (31-21) has been anchored by its pitching staff all season long and that did not change Tuesday against the Spiders (22-25-1). Lewallyn (3-1) picked up the win and dominated early, throwing four innings of one-hit, one-run ball and facing only 15 batters in his time on the mound.
Redshirt sophomore Conner Stevens came in to relieve Lewallyn and was not as masterful, but still managed to keep Richmond at bay. The right-hander allowed two runs and five hits in 2.2 innings of work.
"[Lewallyn] went about 45 pitches. 50 pitches was where we wanted to cap him, so we got him out of there a little ahead of his pitch count," head coach Chris Pollard said. "Every single guy that threw today will be live this weekend, which is what we wanted. We didn't want to extend anyone past the point where we couldn't bring them back and we accomplished that goal."
It has been the bats—not the pitching—that have doomed the Blue Devils at times during the season. Tuesday night, after struggling to get anything going on offense against Miami, Duke did not hold back against the Spiders, pushing across 10 runs on 13 hits, four of which went for extra bases.
In the bottom of the third, the Blue Devils used a pair of triples and a risky bunt to take the lead for good. After Betts doubled and Chris Marconcini drew a walk, Matt Berezo came through with a two-RBI triple down the right field line that pushed Duke's lead to 4-1.
The Blue Devils were not done there. Mike Rosenfeld followed Berezo's blast with a clutch hit of his own. Duke's catcher laid down a bunt—attempting a suicide squeeze—but ended up beating pitcher Robbie Baker to first as Berezo scored from third.
"It was kind of just right time, right place," Rosenfeld said. "It was a good time for it, for sure. I think it's a momentum swing with the triple then to catch them sleeping a little bit out of it, it was a great call by Coach."
Ryan Deitrich followed the squeeze with a triple of his own, scoring Rosenfeld from first. Deitrich then scored on the next play when shortstop Kenny Koplove hit a sacrifice fly to center field. By the time Mike Lumpa flied out to end the inning, the Blue Devil lead had ballooned to 7-1.
The Spiders threatened to come back in the top of the seventh when Jansen Fraser roped a double to the gap in left-center field, bringing two runs home and cutting the lead to 7-3.
But Duke would not allow a comeback and answered Richmond's most productive inning with a three-run frame of its own, extending the lead to 10-3. Koplove and Lumpa knocked a pair of back-to-back to RBI singles to accompany a sacrifice fly by Berezo to produce the three runs in the bottom of the seventh.
"We had some really, really good at-bats," Pollard said. "Not just the fact that we had the number of hits [and] runs that we did, but I thought we did a really good job with our situational offense."
Duke will not have time to celebrate a successful home campaign, as it will travel to Tallahassee, Fla., Thursday to kick off its final series of the year against No. 4 Florida State.