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Pitching propels Blue Devils to 4 wins

Despite two blowout wins, a team batting average of .356 and a combined 36-10 margin of victory on the weekend, the secret to the Blue Devils' four-game sweep of Columbia was found not at the plate, but in the field.

As Duke (10-0) continued its perfect roll through non-conference play, it has stressed the importance of solid pitching and defense. The Blue Devils held the Lions (0-4) to a collective .209 batting average and committed only four errors to Columbia's seven in their 2-1, 11-3, 4-1 and 19-5 wins this weekend at Jack Coombs Field.

"We continued to pitch well and play terrific defense and those are keys for us," head coach Sean McNally said. "It's a great start. It's good to be healthy, and I've gotten looks at a lot of different guys and different combinations."

McNally also said the back-to-back double-headers did not phase the Blue Devils' deep pitching staff of 17. Giving up just seven earned runs in four games, 12 different Blue Devils took the mound. Starters Will Currier and Grant Monroe, reliever Dennis O'Grady and closer Michael Seander recorded the wins for Duke. Monroe's and O'Grady's tallies were the freshmen's second collegiate wins.

Despite recording no-decisions, starters Andrew Wolcott and Jonathan Foreman gave solid performances, with Wolcott hurling six scoreless innings in game one. Junior Kyle Butler and sophomore Alex Hassan earned a save apiece to finish out games two and three, respectively.

"All of our starters did great because all of our starters kept us in the game for at least four innings," catcher Matt Williams said. "They gave our hitters a chance to see some pitches and get acclimated to the game, so to speak, and see the new arm. So that's really what lead to the blowouts-our pitchers holding down the other team until we could hit."

And hit the Blue Devils did.

While the team may not be stressing offense over their defensive fundamentals, the Duke bats were definitely not quiet. The Blue Devils supported their pitchers with solid situational hitting and a dominant presence in the batter's box as seven Blue Devils ending the weekend with averages above .350.

As Columbia knotted the score at one with a two-out, 3-2 solo home run to force the first game into the bottom of the ninth, sophomore Gabriel Saade answered with a game-ending single of his own to score shortstop Jake Lemmerman from second for the 2-1 victory. A consistent scoring effort over five innings sealed game two, 11-3, for Duke, while Saade homered and drove in two runs in Duke's 4-1 game three victory. The Blue Devils sent home Columbia with a resounding 19-5 takedown on Sunday, highlighted by an eight-run seventh inning in which Duke batted around to send a total of 13 hitters to the plate.

"Hitting is contagious. Offense is contagious and that was exciting-a lot of guys contributed," McNally said.

After a midweek game with Valparaiso Wednesday, the Blue Devils look forward to starting conference play with No. 5 North Carolina Friday.

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