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Hitters struggle in Blue Devils' season-opener

In Sean McNally's debut as head coach of the Duke baseball squad, his team lost at home to High Point, 5-1.

The Blue Devil hitters and pitchers lost the battle for control of the strike zone, as the Duke hitters consistently swung at balls outside the zone and the pitchers continuously missed their spots.

The Panthers (2-1), on the other hand, were patient at the plate and aggressive on the mound. High Point starter Matt Christie pitched five innings to pick up his first win of the season, allowing a lone run on just four hits.

Tony Bajoczky, Duke's starting pitcher, also went five innings but fared much worse. Although Bajoczky allowed only two runs, his pitches were all over the place. The junior surrendered seven hits, walked two, plunked two and threw a wild pitch.

His worst inning was the top of the second, when High Point converted two walks into two runs with a pair of bunts and a slow groundout.

"I mostly struggled with control, and it obviously got me in some trouble," Bajoczky said. "Hopefully it will go up from here, I mean it was a rough one. Losing sucks."

The guys at the top of the order failed to do their job in a major way. Jonathan Anderson, Tim Sherlock and Brett Bartles-the 1-2-3 hitters for Duke (0-1)-went a combined 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts.

The lone bright spot for the Duke offense was designated hitter Javier Socorro. The 5-foot-9 senior from Miami hit three singles in four at-bats and drove in the Blue Devils' only run of the game.

"I felt pretty good," Socorro said. "I was hitting in the sixth hole and knew I was going to get a lot of fastballs-especially a guy my size in the DH spot-so I tried to go up there and be aggressive."

Duke started three freshmen in today's starting lineup, which might explain the team's inability to stay patient at the plate.

"I just think it was a case of going out in the first game and really wanting to do well," McNally said. "We have a lot of young players playing, so I know there's some nerves that you want to get out of the way."

Freshman centerfielder Ryan Laboy gave High Point an exceptional effort in the win. In addition to hitting a single, drawing a walk and scoring a run, Laboy made two sparkling catches in the bottom of the second. The most eye-opening occurred when Duke freshman Nate Freiman hit the ball 400 feet to dead center, and Laboy snared the ball on a full sprint while crashing into the wall.

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