To wrap up another successful weekend at home, Duke delivered its most convincing win yet.

The Blue Devils capped off the first Duke Inaugural Tournament with a nearly flawless performance against Kent State. Duke jumped out to a quick lead in the first inning and, with the 8-0 win, completed the first run-rule victory in program history.

It was difficult to find fault in the Blue Devils' victory Sunday afternoon at Duke Softball Stadium. Amelia Wiercioch pitched four shutout innings and the Duke offense capitalized on four Kent State errors to pile on the runs. With a three-run first and a four-run third, Duke shut the door on the Golden Flashes within the first three innings, and the game was over by the mercy rule after four and a half frames.

“Our kids came out and competed,” head coach Marissa Young said. “The topic today was to come out and be strong, and after a four-game weekend, they did that. They came out and they were aggressive, the pitchers did a good job staying ahead of batters and our defense played well behind them. I was really pleased at how we came out today.” 

Wiercioch continued her excellent season on the mound, and the freshman now carries a sparkling 1.11 ERA on the season. Her performance Sunday was dominant, allowing only two hits across four innings, striking out three and walking none. She also impacted the game with her bat, as she was perfect in her two plate appearances, hitting two singles and tallying an RBI and a run. 

"Today’s game felt so amazing, the weather was amazing, my mom was out in the stands and it was really cool for her to come out and watch us play,” Wiercioch said. “Before the game, Coach Lacey came up to us and said, ‘See your pitch, paint the corners, focus on your strengths and you’ll do well.’”

Freshman Jameson Kavel continued her hot stretch by leading off the bottom of the first with a single, and after a sacrifice bunt and a groundout, graduate student Jill Ferraro stepped in with a runner on second and two outs. Ferraro hit a routine grounder to shortstop Holly Speers, but her throw took the first baseman off the bag, and Kavel took advantage to score. On the very next play, another errant throw by Speers set up runners on first and second with two outs. Wiercioch and Haley Wymbs followed with back-to-back clutch RBI singles to push the Duke lead to 3-0. 

“Not to jinx ourselves, but I think we did a really good of stringing together two-out hits,” Wymbs said. “We do a lot of competitions in practice, putting ourselves in those situations so that when we get up there during a game, it feels natural. We do a really good job preparing ourselves for those situations so that we feel comfortable when we’re in them.”

After a hit batter and two singles, Duke (12-6) managed to load the bases with just one out in the bottom of the third. Sophomore Dominique Salinas stepped up to the plate and hit a long single to bring home two runs. The third Golden Flashes throwing error allowed a third run to score and put Salinas on third. Kent State pitcher Madi Huck forced an easy groundout for the second out, but facing a 3-2 count on Kavel, Huck threw a wild pitch that scored Salinas and stretched the Duke lead to seven. 

In the next inning, a leadoff single followed by a sacrifice bunt put freshman Rachel Abboud on second base with one out. Sophomore Raine Wilson, who has been on a tear all season, stepped into the batter’s box against the Golden Flashes (9-6) and hit a scorching double down the third-base line to score Duke’s eighth run and trigger the run-rule victory for the Blue Devils.

“We’re proud of these kids and the work they put in, coming out and showing that they can compete against teams that have been around for a really long time,” Young said. “This is what we have all worked really hard for and it’s good to see it come together.”

After taking three of four during the weekend, including their first walk-off in program history when Jazmine Moreno beat a throw home in the bottom of the ninth of a 4-3 win against Yale, the Blue Devils have a quick turnaround and travel to play a doubleheader at UNC Charlotte Tuesday. Duke then sets its sights on a weekend series against North Carolina. 

When asked if the team would burn a bench following a series win against the Tar Heels, Young said, “We have to start traditions. Let’s start it that way for sure.”