After three tough home losses in a row, Duke finally made Jack Coombs Field feel like home again Sunday afternoon.

The No. 8 Blue Devils avoided a sweep at the hands of No. 2 N.C. State with a dominant 11-2 win, silencing the sizable Wolfpack cheering section that made the drive up I-40 to see one of the biggest ACC series of the year. Griffin Conine set the tone with a no-doubt grand slam in the bottom of the first inning to give Duke its first lead of the series, and the Blue Devils never looked back in a blowout victory. 

“We had our backs against the wall. I told our team in our pregame meeting that this was the best opportunity that we have had all year to this point to show off our toughness in the face of adversity,” Duke head coach Chris Pollard said. “We’re in the middle of running the gauntlet, and this is the first time we’ve been in a backs-against-the-wall position. This was going to be a great chance to show just how tough we are as a club.”

After mostly disappearing for the last three games, Duke’s offense exploded back into form Sunday afternoon against N.C. State starter Michael Bienlien, who recorded just one out before loading the bases and serving up Conine’s shot deep into the trees beyond right field. Miguel Gauthier stopped the bleeding temporarily for the Wolfpack (31-8, 15-6 in the ACC), but the Blue Devil offense was far from finished. 

The bottom of the fifth inning began with a single and walk to chase Evan Justice, who had come in to relieve Gauthier, from the game. Joey Loperfido advanced the runners to scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, and Conine was intentionally walked to load the bases for Kennie Taylor, who lifted a fly ball to right field just deep enough for Chris Proctor to score his second run of the game and give Duke a 5-2 lead. 

With two outs, Michael Smiciklas walked to load the bases again, this time for senior captain Max Miller, who missed Friday’s game with an injury and went 0-for-4 in Saturday’s game. All of that was put squarely in the past as he roped a 2-0 pitch down the left-field line for a two-out, bases-clearing double that blew the game wide open. Three pitches later, the Blue Devils’ lead stretched to eight as Jack Labosky put the finishing touches on a huge six-run inning with a two-run shot to left field that put the game firmly out of reach. 

“I think today’s a big statement win that we’re not going to be pushed over easily. We’re going to fight back,” said Proctor, who went 3-for-5 with three runs scored. “Today I feel like we gave them a good punch to the mouth just like they did Friday for us.” 

In the field, the Blue Devils (31-10, 13-6) were just as stellar, with four pitchers combining to hold N.C. State—which entered the weekend averaging nearly eight runs per game—to just two for the second day in a row. Ryan Day made his first appearance back from dealing with shoulder tightness, and was efficient on a limited pitch count, giving up one run in three innings while striking out two batters. 

Graeme Stinson followed him up with three solid innings, also giving up just one earned run while striking out four before handing the ball to Duke’s ultra-reliable bullpen. Ethan DeCaster and Jack Labosky combined to shut out the Wolfpack in the final three innings, allowing just one baserunner and working with remarkable efficiency. 

“We came out ready to throw punches today, metaphorically speaking, and Ryan pitched well behind it on a pitch count,” Pollard said. “[I’m] really impressed with the job Graeme did in the middle innings to bridge a gap on a day we knew we were split starting the game. And I was very pleased with the way that Ethan and Jack came in and were efficient [and] didn’t waste pitches, so now those guys will be good to come back in midweek.”

With their only losing streak of the season now firmly behind them, the Blue Devils pivot toward their upcoming week with a matchup on the road against Davidson Tuesday before driving up to Blacksburg, Va., Friday for their next ACC series against Virginia Tech.