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Inconsistent pitching plagues Duke baseball against Boston College

Junior Cooper Stinson impressed in his first start last weekend against Coastal Carolina, but struggled to replicate that success against Boston College.
Junior Cooper Stinson impressed in his first start last weekend against Coastal Carolina, but struggled to replicate that success against Boston College.

Despite boasting significant talent and loaded potential, Duke baseball continues to be plagued by inconsistent pitching. 

The Blue Devils opened up their 12-game homestand with a three-game series against ACC rival Boston College this past weekend. The teams split the opening two contests in high-scoring affairs, with Duke falling 10-6 Friday and winning 10-3 Saturday, before the Eagles took the rubber match 5-2 Sunday.

The defeat was the Blue Devils’ third in their last four games, with Duke consequently falling out of this week’s top-25 rankings after holding the No. 11 spot last week. 

“You get into a rubber match—they’re important because at the end of the year you want to have that head-to-head with other teams in the league. There’s no doubt about that. I’m not going to downplay the importance of a rubber match game. Those are big,” head coach Chris Pollard said Sunday. “The importance in [baseball] is to have a short memory. You get a day off tomorrow, you get in the weight room and you flush it all out, and you come out on Tuesday and you compete.”

The first game of the series saw junior Cooper Stinson make his second start of the season. Despite a solid first appearance against Coastal Carolina Feb. 20 (only one earned run on two hits in 5.0 innings), he couldn’t replicate it Friday against Boston College. Stinson only made it through 4.0 innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits and four walks while managing only a single strikeout. The bullpen didn’t do much better, surrendering another four earned runs and two unearned runs in the subsequent five innings of play. 

“As I always remind my guys, you don’t have long to dwell on a loss,” Pollard said. “You need to be really good at getting it out of your system and being ready to come back and play.”

The Blue Devils (3-4, 1-2 in the ACC) followed that mindset and completely flipped the script the following day, limiting the same Eagles squad to just three runs. Sophomore Henry Williams was stifling in his second start of the season, going 6.0 innings and allowing just two earned runs on five hits while striking out seven. The final three frames were manned by redshirt sophomore Oliver Mccarthy, who caught a batter looking to close out the game in electric fashion. 

“[Last week] was really the first true start of [Williams’] career…. I thought he gave himself something he could build off of," Pollard said Saturday. "We got him out of there early not because of ineffectiveness, because of pitch count, and he was really efficient today. And I thought his ability to give us six innings, only 79 pitches, was really big. And the job that Oliver Mccarthy did to come in and get all three innings at the end of the game, that was huge.”

Jack Carey took the mound Sunday afternoon after struggling against Coastal Carolina Feb. 21, allowing five earned runs in just 0.1 innings of work. The junior put together a nice performance this time around against the Eagles (5-1, 2-1), but had to leave the game after 3.0 innings of one-run ball due to pitch count restrictions, making it a bullpen day. Six Duke pitchers saw action, and although none of them had a bad individual outing, the four additional runs allowed proved to be too much for the Blue Devil offense to counter.

“I thought it was a good step in the right direction,” Pollard said of Carey. “Strike percentages still have to be higher to command the baseball and get ahead a little better, but stuff looked really live. The slider lift is as good as I've seen it.”

The improvement from Carey was encouraging for the team, but the Blue Devils will need to see more consistency from all starters if they want to prove themselves as real contenders. The impact of losing 2020 ace Bryce Jarvis to the MLB is clear, but that’s not to say this roster doesn’t have arm talent. It’s just a matter of each guy getting the innings in and finding their groove, something Pollard thinks is certain to be coming.

“We're just going to have to be patient, because you're running a lot of guys out there who don't have a lot of experience,” Pollard said. “And you've got a guy in Jack Carey who's building his pitch count back, so the combination right there, after Jack came out in the third, you put a lot of guys in [the] ballgame who just don't have a lot of experience at this level. And by and large, I thought they managed it pretty well.”

Duke will look to rebound against Davidson Tuesday afternoon.

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