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All bats are off: Duke softball continues torrid start

<p>Kamryn Jackson brought the power for Duke.</p>

Kamryn Jackson brought the power for Duke.

Duke continued its explosive start to the season this past weekend, hitting records out of the park on its way to the best start in the young program’s history. 

The Blue Devils first squeezed out a 2-1 win against Indiana Friday night, but it was Saturday afternoon when the team really came out swinging.

Duke downed the Hoosiers 16-2 before the mercy rule kicked in after the 5th inning, breaking the program record for most runs scored in a game. The Blue Devils then turned around and broke that record again just a few hours later, beating Rutgers 22-1 Saturday night before the mercy rule cut that contest short as well. On Sunday they took Rutgers down again, 2-0. 

“Kids have been working really hard and buying into the process, so it’s good to see that pay off,” head coach Marissa Young said after the Saturday night game. “We had a tight game [Friday], and to be able to come out and score more runs today takes a lot of pressure off the pitching staff. Setting records at home is always fun.”

Offense catches fire 

Duke’s offense looked strong in its first weekend of the season, scoring 27 runs over the team’s five games during its opening trip to Florida. Friday night, however, the Blue Devils had to rely on defense and pitching to wiggle out of a bind against Indiana, scoring two unearned runs and only getting two hits in the game.

But Saturday, the offense looked utterly unstoppable. 

The Blue Devils (8-1) jumped on top in the first inning, with junior outfielder Jameson Kavel stealing home. Then Caroline Jacobsen hit the ball over the fence, driving in two runs (it was ruled a triple and Jacobsen's run did not count due to a baserunning violation). Another runner was driven across the plate before the inning ended. 

Duke scored three more runs in the second inning before exploding for nine runs in the fifth. The 16 total runs broke Duke’s previous record of 11 runs scored in a game, which was tied last weekend against Clemson. Then the Blue Devils turned around and did it all over again. 

Playing Rutgers for the first time in Duke’s three seasons, the Blue Devils kept up their momentum. 

In the first inning, Young's squad put the scoreboard, which only has room for one digit for each inning’s run total, to the test. Duke posted 10 runs in the frame, with freshman Kamryn Jackson notching her first career home run. 

In the second, Duke tacked on five more runs, thanks to Jackson’s second career home run and a pair of doubles. 

“I didn’t think it was going out the second time,” Jackson said. “But I had the same approach, I was just sitting for an outside pitch and it just went.” 

Duke exploded again for seven more runs in the third inning, trapping the Scarlet Knights into a full-bases cycle of self-destruction. The game was called after five innings, with the Blue Devils winning 22-1. 

‘It works out’ 

Offense was not all that went right for the Blue Devils this weekend. While their bats earned 42 runs across the four games, the pitching staff and defense held opponents to only four runs total. 

Young talked at the beginning of the season about the importance of her pitchers being able to go entire games. Against Indiana, junior Peyton St. George came in during the second inning and went nearly the full game. Then she did it again the next day.

St. George threw more than 130 pitches during Friday night’s tight battle, including getting the team out of a bases-loaded, no outs situation. The Blue Devils came back the next day and scored 16 runs, making the five innings and 87 pitches she threw that day less stressful. 

“I get out of the tight situation, and they give me 16 runs the next day,” St. George said. “So it works out.”

Duke had three pitchers in during the Saturday afternoon win against Rutgers: sophomores Kylie Coffelt, Angie Biele and Shelby Walters. 

Walters then went the full game on Sunday against Rutgers, only allowing the Scarlet Knights to get two hits. 

‘In a good place’: Blue Devils face test on the road

The team rounded out the weekend with a solid 2-0 win against Rutgers, scoring in the third and fifth innings. 

Duke will host Campbell University (4-5) on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m., before heading to Austin, Texas for the Texas Invitational next weekend. In Austin, they’ll face Lipscomb (5-2), Weber State (3-6) and North Dakota State (3-5). 

And on Saturday, the team’s explosive start to the season will face a serious road test. The Blue Devils will travel south for a meeting with sixth-ranked Texas (10-0) on the Longhorn’s home turf. 

But for now, the Blue Devils get to enjoy breaking records twice at home. 

“They’re just in a good place, having a lot of fun, playing for each other,” Young said. “That’s what we want to see this time of year.”

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misidentified Shelby Walters as Sarah Walters. The Chronicle regrets the error.

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