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Duke defeats NCCU in 1st meeting

A day after needing extra innings to keep their perfect out-of-conference record intact, the Blue Devils needed no such heroics Wednesday night as they dominated North Carolina Central, 10-2, in front of 1,017 fans at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

The Eagles' program is just two years old, and the 2008 season marks its first in Division I. Duke (21-5) took advantage of NCCU's inexperience and erupted for four runs in both the second and third innings after the Eagles (6-17) botched several double-play balls that led to six unearned runs.

"It was great to play here," head coach Sean McNally said. "It's a terrific venue, and I think our players gained valuable experience playing in front of a big crowd in a stadium like this. We really enjoyed it, and we're very thankful to NCCU, and hope we can continue playing them in the coming years as they develop their program."

After leaving two on base in the first inning, the Blue Devils got one across the plate and had the bases loaded with just one out for shortstop Jake Lemmerman in the second. The freshman hit a potential inning-ending double-play ball to Eagles' shortstop David Scott, but Scott bobbled the ball and failed to record a single out. Three more runners went on to score in the inning to put the Blue Devils up 4-0.

In the bottom of the frame, NCCU got on the board when Duke starting pitcher Jonathan Foreman and catcher Kyle Kreick had trouble and allowed right fielder Kyle Davis to score in a bizarre sequence of events. Davis struck out swinging, but Kreick failed to corral Foreman's pitch and Davis reached base safely.

Another wild pitch allowed Davis to reach second base, and the freshman reached third on a groundout. With the next batter up, Kreick allowed a passed ball and Davis scored easily from third. Even with the run, however, it was not until the fourth inning that the Eagles got their first hit off Foreman, who picked up his first win of the season and now has a 1-0 record.

Leading the way for Duke offensively were centerfielder Alex Hassan and second baseman Gabriel Saade, who each recorded three RBIs.

With Duke leading 8-1 in the seventh inning, Hassan launched a breaking pitch from James Jordan over the bull that sits atop the Blue Monster in left field to pick up his second and third RBIs of the night.

"It was a great swing Al put on the ball," McNally said. "He's been one of our most consistent hitters all season, and he got his pitch there and drove it down the line while keeping it fair."

In addition to his strong performance at the plate, Saade also made the defensive play of the night, bare-handing a ball that caromed off pitcher Ryan Knott and getting the throw to first to retire Kurt Wilson.

"It was a bang-bang play at first base," Saade said. "I think the runner might have been safe, but the umpire was right next to me, and I screamed 'he's out' and might have gotten the call in my favor."

The Blue Devils will be at home this weekend taking on No. 3 Miami (19-2, 7-1). So far this season, Duke has amassed a 4-5 ACC record while taking on three teams that were ranked in the top 25 at the time.

"We know Miami, we know how they play," Saade said. "We expect to play Duke Baseball this weekend though, and we expect to win."


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