Penn State traveled to the Sunshine State as one of only 13 undefeated teams in the country, but it did not take long for that number to drop to 12.
No. 22 Duke took two out of its three games against the Nittany Lions this past weekend at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., the Blue Devils’ third consecutive series victory. Duke began the weekend with a dominant pitching display as Graeme Stinson, Matt Dockman and Jack Carey combined for the program’s first no-hitter since 1955 en route to a 14-0 win. The Blue Devils then lost a tough 8-7 battle Saturday before clinching the series with a come-from behind 9-2 victory Sunday.
The expedition down south also marked Duke’s first road trip of the campaign, something head coach Chris Pollard believes was essential before the team begins its conference slate.
“We needed that before we got into ACC play,” Pollard said. “We needed to get on the road and get a feel for the rhythm on the road. I thought our guys handled that this weekend...now we have got that feel what it is like.”
Stinson, who entered Friday with only two hits and no runs allowed in seven innings, was granted with the start to begin the series. The superstar junior started off the combined no-hitter with a season-high five innings of electric work, striking out five and walking two through 66 pitches.
“[Stinson] really set a tone...it was great that we were able to stretch him out to five innings—that was a goal for us this week heading into ACC play next week,” Pollard said. “But he was efficient with it...so it was kind of mission accomplished.”
From there, Dockman served up a clean sixth inning before Carey finished the afternoon with three no-hit innings of his own.
Offensively, the Blue Devils (9-2) batted all around the lineup Friday, with six different guys posting RBIs. Senior outfielder Kennie Taylor shone the brightest with two hits, three runs scored and four runs batted in, while freshman Ethan Murray and junior Chase Cheek also provided two-hit performances.
“It was an unusual game but it was a neat game,” Pollard said regarding Friday’s matchup. “I have never been a part of a college no-hitter as a player or a coach so that was a really neat thing for all of us. We set a tone—we were obviously really good offensively and on the mound.”
Sophomore Bryce Jarvis got the start for Duke Saturday, a largely back-and-forth affair. Penn State (7-2) shot out for three runs in the first, but seven runs between the third and fifth innings gave the Blue Devils a 7-4 advantage. Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions would bat in two in the sixth and two in the 7th to take the win.
Duke simply had no answer for sophomore infielder Kris Kremer Saturday, as the Hershey Pa., native went a perfect 4-4 at the plate with five RBIs and three home runs—including the two-run shot that won Penn State the ballgame in the seventh.
“I thought it was a really competitive game by both teams,” Pollard said. “Both teams swung the bat well. I thought we had a really good offensive approach. We just could not figure out how to get Kremer out and obviously he hurt us and basically single-handedly beat us.”
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Sunday’s rubber match saw Cooper Stinson take the mound for the Blue Devils. And after giving up a leadoff home run to start the afternoon, the freshman settled in to blank the Nittany Lions over the rest of his five innings.
Penn State eventually stretched its edge to 2-0 in the sixth, anchored by a dominant six-inning, two-hit outing on the mound from redshirt junior Eric Mock. But once Mock left the game Duke’s offense went to work, exploding for five runs in the 7th—capped by a Taylor grand slam to give the Blue Devils the lead for good. An inning later, Taylor smacked the first pitch he saw to left field for his fifth and sixth RBIs of the day. Meanwhile, Cheek added three hits of his own as Duke clinched yet another series win.
“[Cheek] did a great job in the leadoff spot over the last two days—really really impressed with [his] at-bats over the last two games,” Pollard said. “And [Taylor] of course was huge for us... you get that type of productivity out of one and two in your lineup, you feel really good.”
Next, the Blue Devils will return to Durham Bulls Athletic Park for a two-game series with Penn Tuesday and Wednesday. Pollard hopes this midweek series will give him the chance to showcase some more arms before ACC play begins at Virginia next weekend.
“It should be great because we have got two midweek games—really gives us a chance to get some guys in the mix from a pitching standpoint,” Pollard said. “[Freshman pitcher] Kyle Salley had a great outing against Northwestern last Sunday and we did not get him in the ballgame this week, so we want to get [him] some work and really be able to work on building our depth. [We] want to be able to stretch [junior pitcher] Matt Mervis out, let him build up another two innings this week—a lot of things we are looking to accomplish with this midweek Penn series.”