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Despite delay, Duke wins with timely hitting

Shortstop Jake Lemmerman homered in the top of the ninth to give Duke a four-run cushion against Davidson.
Shortstop Jake Lemmerman homered in the top of the ninth to give Duke a four-run cushion against Davidson.

Duke head coach Sean McNally isn’t a proponent of flashy baseball. He builds his teams on a tripod of fundamentals: pitching, defense and timely hitting. All three of those skills were on display Tuesday night, as McNally’s Blue Devils (13-7) defeated Davidson (13-8) 6-2 on the road.

Pitching? Check: The Duke pitching staff, led by 6-foot-6 freshman righthander Chase Bebout, held a highly regarded Wildcat offense to just four hits (though they did walk four batters and hit four more in the game). Defense? Check: After five errors in three games last weekend against Miami, the defense was airtight at Davidson, turning a key double play in the first inning and throwing out two runners trying to steal. The only error came in the ninth with two outs.

“It’s fun to watch our infield. We’ve got some of the best guys I’ve seen defensively in the infield,” sophomore centerfielder Will Piwnica-Worms said.

And timely hitting? Check: Led by Piwnica-Worms’s three doubles and three RBIs, the Blue Devils had five two-out RBIs and were 6-for-18 with runners on.

“We feel good about the way we put the game together,” McNally said.

The contest was delayed 25 minutes due to a broken water main in the infield, but the Blue Devils wasted no more time getting their bats going. After a leadoff walk and a single in the first frame put two runners on base for Duke, Piwnica-Worms bashed the first of his three doubles to drive in two runs and give his team an early cushion.

“Will was frustrated with how he performed against Miami, but I knew it was just a matter of him finding some holes,” McNally said. “Today he got rewarded for taking good swings.”

With a lead out of the gate, the outcome passed into the hands of Bebout, who looked wild in the early going. He walked three and hit a batter in his first two innings, but struck out three in that stretch and got some help from his defense, which turned a double play and caught Davidson leadoff man Sam Payne stealing.

Piwnica-Worms helped Duke add to its lead in the third inning with another RBI double, putting the Blue Devils up 3-0. Davidson earned one of those runs back in its half of the third, but Bebout settled in and retired seven hitters in a row after the run scored to complete five innings of two-hit ball.

“He struggled a little bit early to get the ball down in the strike zone. That’s going to happen sometimes,” McNally said. “But very good composure [and] he attacked the zone better as the game went on. I thought he settled in nicely.”

Senior Jonathan Foreman and junior Michael Seander followed Bebout with a scoreless frame apiece, and a Mike Carroll RBI triple in the eighth extended the Duke advantage to 4-1.

The Wildcats threatened again in the eighth, when senior Jeremy Gould put two men on base before being relieved by sophomore Ben Grisz. Grisz allowed one of the runners to score but got himself out of the inning. Junior Jake Lemmerman then sealed the deal for Duke in the top of the ninth when he blasted his fifth home run of the season, driving in Joe Pedevillano to give the Blue Devils a four-run lead. Grisz breezed through the ninth to finish off the Wildcats.

Take some pitching and defense, add a dash of situational hitting, and you’ve got a recipe for winning baseball games. No flash necessary.

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