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Duke softball topples Elon for fifth win in last six games

<p>Senior second baseman Kristina Foreman homered to tie the ball game in the fourth inning.&nbsp;</p>

Senior second baseman Kristina Foreman homered to tie the ball game in the fourth inning. 

Home sweet home. 

In their first game of the season in Durham, three Blue Devil upperclassmen launched home runs to secure a win against Elon with the help of two tenacious pitching performances. No. 10 Duke's record now stands at 9-2, adding four wins at the past weekend’s T-Mobile Tournament and suffering a sole loss to No. 4 Florida.

Duke stormed into contention Wednesday against Elon in the third, beginning with a shot into left by outfielder/pitcher Claire Davidson. Two beautiful bunts, one by third baseman Ana Gold and the other a sacrifice by catcher Kelly Torres, put runners on second and third for the Blue Devils. Right fielder Caroline Jacobsen at the plate and second baseman Kristina Foreman in the on deck circle. 

Jacobsen, the reigning ACC Player of the Week, jumped on the first pitch she saw and cleared the bases by sending it out over the left center fence. She was immediately followed by Foreman smoking the second pitch of her at bat out of the park in dead center. These shots brought both of their career home run totals to 25, the program record, and tied the score at 4-4. 

“I said to them at the beginning of the season that those two being consistent in the lineup for us were the key to our offensive success,” said head coach Marrisa Young of Jacobsen and Foreman. 

The duo has been on a tear this year, with each being in the top three on the team in home runs, RBI and slugging percentage, along with shortstop Jameson Kavel. 

The game could have easily gotten away from the Blue Devils (9-2) in the top of the second. Davidson was in the circle for the start of the game, and after a smooth-sailing first inning, she gave up two walks, two hit-by-pitches and a fielder’s choice in the second, loading the bases and giving Elon (7-3) their first run of the night. After bringing the count to 0-2 against Elon shortstop Megan Grant, the Phoenix sent a hard grounder through the left side, sending another run around. 

With runners still occupying every base, a pitching substitution would not have been unreasonable, but Young took a visit to the circle instead. 

“You know, it's early. I feel like our team is going to score some runs, and with [senior pitcher] Shelby Walters being out for us, we've got to get [sophomore pitcher] Jala Wright and Claire going and taking up some innings for us,” said Young of trusting her younger pitchers. “I want them to know that I believe in them and they don't have to be perfect, so I just wanted to give her the opportunity to work through that.”

When Elon third baseman Gabi Shaal came to the plate and sent a grounder up the middle, two more runners scored while she tried for two. Davidson fielded the relay from center fielder Kamryn Jackson, and whipped it to first behind Shaal, who would have been caught out without a fielding mishap from senior first baseman Rachel Crabtree. However, Crabtree stuck with it and nailed the remaining Elon baserunner who tried to sneak home on the play, ending the inning and Davidson’s day in a much less dangerous position than was possible.

Overall, the Blue Devil bats connected hard and fast when they needed to. Along with Jacobsen and Foreman’s home runs coming on the first and second pitch of their at bats, respectively, each ball in play for the team came on an average of only a little over three pitches. 

This pattern stuck, as Crabtree attacked an 0-1 pitch and sent it off the scoreboard in left, giving Duke the 5-4 lead in the bottom of the sixth. After that, the Phoenix had no chance of rising from the ashes, as graduate student pitcher Peyton St. George held them to two hits and no runs in the five innings she pitched to close out the game. 

Duke’s loss against powerhouse Florida over the weekend resulted from less confident pitching performances all around, with four runs given up by Walters and St. George and one by sophomore Lillie Walker. The Blue Devils firmly outmatched Florida A&M in both of the team’s meetings, mercy ruling them both times, and early scoring against Villanova and Louiville kept Duke in control for the whole of their contests. 

The Blue Devils continue their season at home Thursday as the host of the Duke Invitational, with matchups throughout the weekend against No. 17 Michigan, Army, and Northern Kentucky. 

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