Duke kept its win streak rolling Saturday against Purdue in the Big 10/ACC Challenge, continuing an impressive start to the season.
The Blue Devils started the Challenge with two wins Friday, beating Purdue 1-0 and finishing even stronger with a 7-5 comeback win against Penn State. The Boilermakers have struggled all season, and Duke kept the momentum going with a lot of energy Saturday at Duke Softball Stadium in an 8-1 win.
The enthusiasm started with Duke’s unique and varied walk-up song playlist. The songs ranged from “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, to "The Imperial March” and kept the Blue Devils at a high energy level despite a slow start to the game.
Duke went scoreless in the first two innings, with only one hit. The Boilermakers struggled as well, with no runs on two hits through two frames. Both teams were plagued with foul ball after foul ball, as countless softballs flew into the crowd and onto the roof of the press box. Neither team could connect for any meaningful plays, both on offense and defense.
Duke quickly put a stop to the struggles with an exciting third inning. Jameson Kavel came up for her second at bat and hit a bomb out to left field, collecting an RBI to score Haley Wymbs and a triple for herself.
“My mindset was just to be aggressive and start the momentum for my team so we could get something going” Kavel said.
Immediately following, Jazmine Moreno hit a fly out to left field, caught by Purdue but resulting in a run for Kavel.
Freshman Katherine Huey kept the ball rolling with a two-run home run past the left-field fence. Huey was a key to Duke’s success on both sides of the ball, pitching two scoreless innings as well.
“I think it all goes back to my team and us always being cheerful on and off the field and having each other's backs," Huey said. "I know they have my back whether it was on the plate or on the mound."
As the rain started to pour down, the Blue Devils (5-3) certainly kept their spirits up. In the fourth inning, Duke caught Purdue (1-6) off guard, causing miscommunication and errors from the Boilermakers. A potential double play for Purdue resulted in a error and quick recovery by Moreno, who grabbed another run for Duke.
The Blue Devils continued to work hard on offense to make plays and put runs on the scoreboard, led by three hits for Kavel.
“I was really just trying to do my job and get in a position where my hitters could just hit me in," Kavel said.
Kavel stole bases left and right, creating opportunities for Duke to keep rolling. She had multiple close calls, including a near-miss at third base following a line drive and a slide into home plate for another run. The freshman finished the day with three runs scored to bounce back from her self-proclaimed “rough” showing last weekend.
"It really comes down to us taking care of playing Duke softball style, which is being aggressive, playing loose and having fun,” head coach Marissa Young said after the game.
It was clear that the Blue Devils were doing just that. In the middle of the sixth inning, Duke was in high spirits as “Everytime We Touch” played and all the players paused to clap and jump along in true Blue Devil fashion.
The Blue Devils stayed hungry until the end of the game, staying on their toes defensively. Raine Wilson made big plays for Duke, including a double play to close out the sixth.
“Really our preparation and practice is just getting them ready for these moments. We talk a lot about the process and sticking to it,” Young said., “We may not see the results right away, but we will at some point when you need it most.”
Duke will look to stay unbeaten at home against Penn State Sunday at 12:30.
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