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UNC-W pounds Blue Devils

Fresh off its first ACC win of the season, the baseball team took the field Wednesday at Jack Coombs Field against UNC-Wilmington hoping to notch its first back-to-back wins since mid-February.

The Blue Devils were in for an unpleasant surprise.

“You just hope that all phases of your game don’t go south on you, and they did tonight,” head coach Bill Hillier said. “We couldn’t field it, and we couldn’t pitch.”

In a game that dragged on for more than three hours, the Seahawks pounded the Blue Devils, 24-1. The blowout marked the largest margin of victory in UNC-W program history and the second Seahawk (17-11) victory over Duke (9-20) this season. UNC-W previously beat the Blue Devils 7-9 in Wilmington Feb. 16.

“I think it’s one of the few games I’ve ever coached that we had more errors than we had hits,” Hillier said.

Duke’s sloppy fielding and UNC-W’s strong hitting resulted in the Seahawks building an early lead, which the Blue Devils never came close to challenging.

The Seahawks opened the contest by scoring six runs, notching four hits and stealing four bases in the top of the first inning. The offensive onslaught began in the game’s first at bat, when catcher Chris Hatcher hit a pitch up the middle for a single.

Starting pitcher Greg Burke struck out the next two UNC-W hitters but allowed Hatcher to steal second. Tim Preston reached first base on an interference error that Duke catcher Brett Smith committed during the play.

Leftfielder Javier Socorro and third baseman Kyle Kreick both went on to commit fielding errors during the inning. Each of the three errors resulted in a unearned Seahawk run.

“The game started to get out of hand,” Hillier said. “A six-run first inning doesn’t help.”

Leftfield proved to be the most error-prone position of the night for Duke, as three of the team’s six errors originated in that corner. After Socorro’s first-inning miscue, Eric Baumann replaced him in the field. In his four innings of play, Baumann committed two errors, both of which resulted in UNC-W players taking bases.

“Leftfield killed us,” Hillier said. “There’s a lot of things that did.”

Two other players, Jonathan Nicolla and Mike Miello, were substituted into the problematic spot before the game was over. Though neither player committed an error, neither contributed a hit.

In fact, only four Duke players contributed to the Blue Devils’ five-hit effort. Designated hitter Cody Wheeler had the most successful offensive performance, producing the only Blue Devil run of the night by launching a solo homer over the leftfield wall in the fourth inning. Brett Smith was the only Duke player to tally more than one hit.

As part of UNC-W’s 21 hits, 11 Seahawks recorded at least one hit in the game; six enjoyed a multiple-hit contest. Hatcher and rightfielder John Raynor led the team with four hits each.

Duke was forced to probe deep into its bullpen to try to find a way to quell UNC-W’s unstoppable hitting. After Burke exited the game in the fourth inning, the Blue Devils brought in six different relief pitchers, including the rarely-used Dale Longfellow and Daniel Mangiapani, who have combined for less than seven innings pitched this season. Closer Sean O’Brien was the only Duke hurler who did not allow at least one earned run during his time on the mound.

“This game is a humbling game,” Hillier said. “One of the great things about baseball is that you get to play a lot. Hopefully we can go out and beat Wake Forest on Friday, and this one will be forgotten.”

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