McAfee's strong start helps Duke baseball end skid against Demon Deacons

<p>Cornell transfer Brian McAfee fired seven innings of two-run ball to help the Blue Devils snap a six-game losing streak Sunday against Wake Forest.</p>

Cornell transfer Brian McAfee fired seven innings of two-run ball to help the Blue Devils snap a six-game losing streak Sunday against Wake Forest.

Just when it looked as though the Blue Devils were going to be swept for the second straight weekend, Brian McAfee stepped in and carried Duke to a win.

Led by seven strong innings from the Cornell transfer, the Blue Devils snapped their six-game losing streak and salvaged the final game of their weekend series at Wake Forest Sunday with a 3-2 victory at David F. Couch Ballpark. McAfee needed just 95 pitches to make his way through seven frames, scattering nine hits and allowing just two earned runs while striking out four, as Duke left Winston-Salem, N.C., on a high note after a 12-0 loss Friday and an extra-innings loss on a wild pitch Saturday.

The outing marked the fourth straight quality start for McAfee (3-2), who bumped his personal ledger past the .500 mark and now leads the Blue Devil staff with 41 innings pitched—11 1/3 more than any other Duke hurler.

The Blue Devils wasted little time giving McAfee a lead, pushing a run across in the top of the second against Demon Deacon starter Drew Loepprich (2-1). Third baseman Jack Labosky led off the frame with a single for Duke (11-13, 2-7), and two more singles loaded the bases with just one out. Sophomore Justin Bellinger nearly killed the Blue Devil rally by getting picked off first base, but a walk to Max Miller re-loaded the bases and Loepprich plunked freshman Kennie Taylor to force home Labosky for the game's first run.

Labosky crossed the plate again in the sixth inning, but this time he required no help from teammates or opposing pitchers. The Clovis, Calif., native jumped on a first-pitch fastball from Wake Forest reliever John McCarren and blasted it over the left-center field fence to give Duke a 2-0 advantage. The homer was Labosky's second of the season.

But the Demon Deacons (16-10, 4-5) answered right back against McAfee, who had breezed through the first five innings without allowing a run. Catcher Ben Breazeale came up with a clutch two-out, two-strike RBI single to center field that drove in designated hitter Will Craig and cut the Blue Devil lead in half.

After Duke tacked on an insurance run in the top of the seventh, McAfee got into more trouble as Duke head coach Chris Pollard let him start the eighth inning. The right-hander allowed back-to-back singles to open the frame, allowing the go-ahead run to step to the plate as Pollard summoned Ryan Day from the bullpen. 

Day faced Craig and his .450 batting average, but punched out the senior, his only batter of the day. Pollard mixed and matched with his bullpen for the rest of the inning, calling for left-hander James Ziemba—who promptly struck out Breazeale—and then bringing in Mitch Stallings to finish the game.

Stallings got into some hot water by allowing an RBI single and hitting a batter, but escaped the jam and preserved the lead by inducing a fielder's choice. Stallings allowed just a harmless two-out single in the ninth and finished off Wake Forest to earn his first save of the season.

The Blue Devils return to action against Liberty Tuesday night at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m.


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