Bats come alive in series win over Pirates

Neither rain nor snow could keep Duke from winning its first game of the season and taking two of three games in its weekend series against Seton Hall.

The Blue Devils (2-2) trounced the Pirates in a 13-7 victory Friday afternoon before rain Saturday closed Jack Coombs Field and forced a doubleheader Sunday. Braving scattered snow flurries, Duke and Seton Hall (1-2) split Sunday's games, with the Blue Devils winning the first 3-2 and the Pirates rebounding with a 7-5 victory to end the series.

Friday's victory was also Sean McNally's first win as the Blue Devils' head coach.

"I feel good about the way we played," McNally said. "The goal every time is to win the series. We were able to do that. We take a lot of positives out of this weekend. We got a lot of guys more experience and a lot of guys got in there and got a chance to get on the field. To win two out of three, that was a good weekend for us."

The Blue Devil's offensive efforts were apparently not dampened by the weather. Duke outscored the Pirates 23-14 over the three games and batted .341 overall as a team during the series.

Friday's game was highlighted by Duke's seven-run sixth inning, in which the Blue Devils took a crippling 11-1 lead. Sophomore Brett Bartles hit the first home run of his career-a monster grand-slam over the left field fence-and led the team with a career-high five RBI's. Sophomore Jonathan Nicolla went 4-for-5, setting a career-high with his four hits.

"I feel good about the way we're swinging the bats," McNally said. "I think the key really is working hard to put the ball in play with two strikes and also situationally doing the job-getting guys in from third base and moving runners over. We can always get better, but I feel guys have a good plan and a good approach up there."

The first game Sunday, which was shortened to seven innings, was a pitcher's duel. After giving up a hit, a walk, and two runs to the Pirates in the first inning, Duke starter Nate Freiman was replaced by fellow freshman Andrew Wolcott.

The Pirates never scored again.

Wolcott allowed only three hits in three and two-thirds innings, and reliever Danny Otero picked up the win, giving up two hits in three innings. Dan McDonald pitched the entire game for the Pirates, limiting Duke to six hits. The Blue Devils, however, scored in the fifth inning on a RBI sacrifice fly by Tim Sherlock that drove in the go-ahead run from third.

"It was good to see Andrew Wolcott in the first game [of the doubleheader], a freshman, get out on the mound and throw strikes," McNally said. "It was nice to see Ron Causey, who battled back from a lot of injuries there, get behind the plate in game two and get a couple of hits for us."

Causey, who went 2-for-5 in the second game, drove in one run and scored another in the back-and-forth battle.

Duke took a 5-4 lead in a three-run, fifth inning rally. After singling to right field, senior Adam Murray stole second base and scored the go-ahead run on the next play off a single laced to center by Nicolla.

The Pirates, however, immediately responded with a RBI double to knot the score in the top of the sixth. Seton Hall, who out-hit the Blue Devils 15-12 in the game, scored two more runs with a three-hit seventh inning to take a final lead of 7-5.

The Blue Devils had a chance to come back, but could not capitalize, stranding two runners on base in the bottom of the seventh and one in the bottom of the eighth.

"To win two out of three games is a good series for us," McNally said. "We're four games in, and we feel good about our start and also what we're in the process of becoming. It is a process and it was a good weekend for us."


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