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Duke baseball sweeps Cornell behind dominant all-around pitching

Rudy Maxwell led Duke's offense this past weekend against Cornell
Rudy Maxwell led Duke's offense this past weekend against Cornell

Duke just keeps rolling.

After being shut out in the first two games thanks to dominant Duke pitching efforts, Cornell broke the streak in the Sunday matinee, pushing a run across in the first frame with three straight one-baggers and a sacrifice fly. The Blue Devils quickly got their feet under them, however, turning a nifty double play to eliminate any further threat, keeping the Cornell offense scoreless over the course of the remaining eight innings. 

The 17th-ranked Blue Devils continued their hot start to the season this past weekend, sweeping a three-game set against Cornell. Duke took game one 8-0, the second game 2-0 and the final game 3-1 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. 

“It is a confidence booster to an offense when you’re pitching this well, " head coach Chris Pollard said. "You feel like if you can scratch a couple across, you’ve got a chance."

Junior pitcher Bryce Jarvis tossed his way into the history books Friday afternoon, throwing the first perfect game in Blue Devil history and entering the realm of baseball immortality. But Jarvis was not the only arm to lift the Blue Devils to a win this weekend. Cooper Stinson allowed only two hits in six strong innings en route to a 2-0 win Saturday, marking the fourth straight game that Duke shut out its opponent.

Rudy Maxwell provided the offensive spark the Blue Devils needed in the bottom of the sixth. He fought off a couple tough pitches in a 1-2 count, eventually lacing a double that put a dent in the left field wall and brought Matt Mervis around, knotting the score at one.

Another walk loaded the bases, but a grounder to short left the ducks on the pond. 

The Blue Devils were not done, though, forcing a pair of runs across the dish in the seventh inning with a timely hit from Michael Rothenberg and an unfortunate bounce off the Cornell pitcher Niko Lillios from the bat of Mervis. This late offensive push represented the first time since Friday night that the Blue Devils had concentrated offense, with three seventh-inning hits and two runs putting the Big Red to bed.

Stinson carried the effort Saturday with Matt Dockman and Thomas Girard coming on strong in relief and only allowing one hit between them in the final three frames of play.

“We’re going to swing it better than we’ve swung it this weekend, I don’t have any doubt about that,” Pollard said. “But in the meantime, you have to learn how to win ballgames like this too. Right now, offensively, it’s as simple as we’re just missing some pitches that, when we get more comfortable, we’ll hit.”

Thankfully, the bats were alive during the 94-pitch masterpiece that Bryce Jarvis put together from the rubber on Friday night. The Duke offense imposed its will on Cornell’s Colby Wyatt, who went only four and two thirds while giving up five runs, though only one earned. The Blue Devils took advantage of a couple of timely, or untimely, depending on your affiliation, errors by the Big Red defense to do their damage in the fourth and fifth innings. As it turned out, though, they needed almost none of it.

“I mean, one run [allowed] through the whole weekend? Jarvis obviously [had] the best game I’ve ever been around, Cooper did what he did all year, and then Carey came out today and really battled, didn’t have his best stuff… but he got outs,” Rothenberg said.

And while pitching did steal the show on a beautiful weekend in Durham, the key contributions from the offensive end proved crucial. Maxwell had a good weekend at the dish, driving in four runs through three games, while Mervis and Erikson Nichols both tallied three knocks of their own in the series. If this Duke team can manage to slowly improve its offensive might, this is a baseball team that will win most of its games this spring.

“After that first game, we just had to get the monkey off our back," Maxwell said. "But now, this team is going to be special. Watch out for us."