A second straight shutout propelled Duke to its sixth straight win.
Behind the strong arms of their pitching staff, the Blue Devils were able to eke out a 2-0 win Tuesday night at Jack Coombs Field against visiting UNC-Greensboro. The shutout extended Duke’s scoreless streak to 19 innings. The the last run Duke allowed coming in the bottom of the eighth Saturday afternoon against Virginia Tech.
“I thought [the pitching staff] threw the ball great,” head coach Chris Pollard said. “I thought that both teams pitched great…. We got a terrific start out of Istler and then the guys in the bullpen did exactly what you want them to do. They were very efficient, they got a lot of early contact in the at bat. I thought it was a really good pitching performance by all five of our guys that threw today.”
Duke (25-17) scored the first run of the night in the bottom of the fifth inning on an error by Spartan third baseman Sean Guite. Designated hitter Matt Berezo led off the inning with a walk—Duke’s second base runner of the game at that point. Catcher and team captain Mike Rosenfeld came up next, but swung and missed on a hit-and-run attempt. But, Berezo was able to successfully steal second on the play.
Two pitches later, Rosenfeld came through with situational hitting, driving a ground ball up the middle to allow Berezo to advance to third with just one out in the inning.
After a ground out by left fielder Ryan Dietrich, shortstop Kenny Koplove rolled a hard ground ball to third base and then reached safely after the ball was initially booted. The subsequent throw was wide of first base allowing Berezo to score on the play.
It was the only run Duke would need.
“It was a hit and run,” Rosenfeld said. “Tough pitch to handle. He threw it down but luckily Matt [Berezo] could get in there safe and then we moved him to third and ended up scoring the run. I would’ve loved to have gotten a base hit… that’s a situation where you just have to move the runner to third [and] get him in with our other batters.”
This was Rosenfeld’s first game back behind the plate after missing all of last week with an undisclosed injury and he made his presence known. Rosenfeld went 1-for-3 at the dish with the key sacrifice to bring Berezo to third base in the fifth inning and was flawless on defense.
“I thought he caught a terrific ballgame,” Pollard said. “I thought he was really, really good behind the plate and our guys have so much confidence in him. You saw how many breaking balls we buried in the dirt in a two-strike count and he handled every single one of them.”
Junior Andrew Istler gave Duke another strong start on the mound, allowing no runs on only three hits and recording four strike outs in five innings of work. He ran into a little bit of trouble in the first and second innings, allowing lead off singles in both innings.
Both times, however, Istler was able to avoid any issue by picking off the base runners. In the first inning, he whipped around from the stretch to nail center fielder Zac MacAneney at first base. In the second inning, after advancing to second base on a fielder’s choice, Istler picked off second baseman Hunter King to get out of trouble again.
The bullpen stepped up to fill in for Istler over the remaining four innings, with four different Duke relievers taking one inning each. Senior Robert Huber came on in the ninth inning to seal the deal and recorded his eighth save of the season.
“I felt great,” Istler said. “Fastball was working really well. Slider was working really well too…. I work on [the pick off move] a good amount. This year it’s really improved a lot… it’s just all about quick feet and they pretty much just get themselves out.”
UNC-Greensboro (17-19) had its chances throughout the game but could not find a way to push across a run against the Duke staff. The Spartans out hit the Blue Devils four to three and had lead off base runners in the first and second innings, but failed to come up with any big hits in the game.
After getting a runner into scoring position in the top of the ninth, UNC-Greensboro fell meekly, striking out swinging and then grounding out to end the game.
Duke will look to extend its winning streak this weekend when the Blue Devils visit Winston-Salem, N.C., to face in-state rival Wake Forest.
If the Blue Devils can continue to get pitching performances like it has of late, they could extend that streak to nine by the end of the weekend.
“We’re excited,” Pollard said. “Like we’ve tried to do everyday this year, just really taking it a one day at a time. I feel very confident in saying that none of our guys were looking past tonight… and we’ll try to go out tomorrow and have a good practice, make some good adjustments offensively and then be ready to go.”