Istler throws five scoreless in first start
After losing nine of their last 11 games, the Blue Devils were looking to regain their confidence against Charlotte before returning to conference play.
A strong offensive output did just that, propelling Duke (16-26) to a 12-5 victory over the 49ers.
Freshman Andrew Istler made his first career start on the mound against Charlotte (17-22), recording five consecutive shutout innings before he was relieved by left-handed pitcher Dillon Haviland.
“Andrew was terrific tonight,” head coach Sean McNally said. “He gave us exactly what we needed. We needed him to get through five innings and throw strikes. He commanded the ball really well and certainly gave us a lift.”
On the offensive end, sophomore Mike Rosenfeld carried the Blue Devils, going 4-of-6 at bat and hitting the first two home runs of his career.
“It was a big day for Mike Rosenfeld,” McNally said. “Mike has gotten better and better as the season has gone on, and I’ve been really excited to see him develop into a terrific all-around player. A lot of guys swung the bats well tonight, but he was certainly the highlight.”
Duke jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning when after freshman Grant McCabe was issued a walk, Rosenfeld notched his first career home run.
Istler protected the lead, breezing through the Charlotte lineup, allowing only three batters to reach base in the next four innings.
After the first inning, both teams went scoreless until the fifth, when the Blue Devils exploded with a three-run inning. Rosenfeld kicked off the rally by homering to center field. Sophomore Mark Lumpa walked, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error, scoring an unearned run after junior Jeff Kremer flew out to center field. A single by sophomore Angelo LaBruna to center credited him with an RBI, as sophomore David Perkins, who walked and stole second, crossed home to cap Duke’s rally.
“We swung the bats really well,” McNally said. “It’s been tough for us to generate offense on Tuesdays, but today, up and down our lineup we had quality at-bats.”
The Blue Devils continued their offensive dominance in the sixth, with freshman Reed Anthes scoring on a wild pitch and senior Will Piwnica-Worms scoring on a passed ball. The 49ers responded in the bottom half of the inning, scoring one run on two hits— junior Shane Basen singled through the left side, sending senior Shane Brown to home.
In the seventh, Charlotte continued to chip away at its deficit, as freshman Patrick Raley scored on a wild pitch. Duke did not let the 49ers get too close, however, scoring two runs in the eighth, including a home run by Piwnica-Worms that drove McCabe home. Charlotte matched them in the bottom of the eighth with two runs of its own, but it was too little too late, as the Blue Devils held a 9-4 lead with only one inning left to play.
La Bruna, McCabe, and freshman Sarkis Ohanian scored in the final inning to put the game out of reach from the 49ers, who added a run in the bottom of the ninth.
Duke has three ACC series left that will determine whether or not they make the cut for the conference tournament. They currently sit two games out of eighth-place as they prepare to travel to N.C. State this weekend.
“[This win] generates some momentum for us,” McNally said. “It’s great to get some good results.”