On a chilly afternoon, it was the Blue Devils’ hot bats that carried them to victory.
Duke rolled past Norfolk State 11-1 Wednesday afternoon at Jack Coombs Field thanks to an impressive offensive performance. Duke led 2-1 midway through the game, but pulled away with two runs in the fifth, two in the sixth and five more in the seventh to seal the victory.
“We did a better job of being opportunistic at the plate,” head coach Chris Pollard said. “I think there were some times in the first seven ballgames where we had a chance to put a crooked number on the board and we didn’t. Today we did, and that’s good.”
The Blue Devils (5-3) first broke through against Spartan starter Devin Hemmerich in the third inning thanks to a two-out rally. Leadoff hitter Mike Rosenfeld drew a walk, and Grant McCabe lined a base hit to left field, bringing up Ryan Deitrich with two on and two out. Deitrich blasted a double into the left field corner, plating both Rosenfeld and McCabe to put Norfolk State (1-6) in a 2-0 hole.
The two-run cushion was all that Duke starter Drew van Orden would need. He dominated the Spartan lineup in the early stages of the game, holding them hitless through the first four innings. Van Orden attacked Norfolk State hitters in the strike zone early in the count, which allowed him to keep his pitch-count low and work through six innings in just 75 pitches. He yielded one earned run on three hits, striking out five to pick up his first win of the season.
“It’s good to see him bounce back after he didn’t have a good start against UNC-Greensboro,” Pollard said. “To bounce back and have that kind of quality start just shows the ability to be resilient, and that’s something you have to be good at in this game.”
Van Orden got into a bit of trouble in the fifth, when back-to-back singles from Ross Cardwell and Tyon Ore to lead off the frame prompted a mound visit from the coaching staff. The next batter—catcher Omar Hotusing—lined out softly to shortstop Kenny Kopolove, who alertly noticed that Ore had strayed too far off the bag and fired to first to complete the double play. But van Orden could not escape the jam unscathed, as third baseman Justin Burrell grounded a base hit up the middle with two outs to push across the Spartans’ first run of the game.
“[I was] trying to minimize the damage,” van Orden said. “Just trying to get a ground ball and roll a double play—try to find a way out of that inning without letting them back into the game, which I was fortunate enough to do.”
With its lead cut to 2-1, Duke responded right away in the bottom of the fifth. Batting out of the ninth slot in the order, center fielder Andre’ Moore roped a line drive into the left-center field gap that he legged out for a triple. The first offering to the next batter was a wild pitch that skipped past the catcher and went to the backstop, allowing Moore to scamper home and extend the Blue Devils’ lead to 3-1. Sloppy defense by Norfolk State allowed Duke to push across another run in the inning—a pop-up fell between three Spartan defenders as Deitrich crossed the plate.
“At that point, it’s a 2-1 ballgame,” Pollard said. “It was important for our team to respond in the bottom of the fifth. We took advantage of the ball that dropped in left, and sometimes you have to be opportunistic.”
The Blue Devil offense was just getting started, continuing to pile on runs and extend their lead. In the sixth, Rosenfeld drove in two runs with a triple off reliever Jonathan Mauricio to stretch the lead to 6-1. The Blue Devils added five more runs in the seventh on RBI singles from Koplove, Cristian Perez, and McCabe to reach the final margin of 11-1. The Blue Devils scored multiple runs in four different innings, and seven starters had at least one hit in their most impressive offensive performance of the season.
“I think all our hitters had really good approaches today,” van Orden said. “We’re seeing the ball well, and I was really lucky to have that behind me.”