Duke’s star power at the plate was on full display this weekend, with a 10-3 win Sunday against Baylor to sweep the three-game series, and decisive wins of 20-1 Friday and 22-3 Saturday. While they did get off to a slower start Sunday than in the previous two games, once the Blue Devils turned it into overdrive, they did not let up. The eighth inning saw big hits from Andrew Fischer, Jay Beshears, Alex Stone and MJ Metz that busted the game open for the Blue Devils, who tallied six runs to extend their lead from 4-3 to the final 10-3. With that, they sent the Bears back to Waco, Texas, with three more in the loss column.
“We kept our foot on the gas pedal the entire way,” head coach Chris Pollard said. “There's a big difference when you look up at the end of the year between winning a series and sweeping a series, so it was good for our guys to recognize and be able to finish it off today.”
The win comes one week after Duke (5-2) dropped its final game against St. Joseph’s in extra innings, winning the series 2-1 but failing to achieve the coveted 3-0 sweep.
Sophomore shortstop Alex Mooney reliably got on base, anchoring the team with three runs scored, a double and one RBI. Beshears had a day as well, with one run scored, two hits and two RBI. The two lead the team in hits and are tied for second in runs scored so far this season, and their performance against Baylor (2-5) further solidified their presence as dependable offensive weapons. The weekend was the first time Duke had notched 45-plus hits in a series since 2017.
Impressive efforts from both defenses kept it neck and neck for the majority of the game Sunday. Baylor was only able to get in three at-bats in each of the first four innings and got only one man on base during that time. Duke had a chance to get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second with bases loaded from a double, a hit by pitch and a walk, but nifty pitching from Baylor’s Mason Marriott sent the Blue Devils back to the dugout unable to capitalize.
The two teams went back and forth trading runs during the middle innings, with three of Duke’s runs coming from RBI by Beshears and junior third baseman Luke Storm to bring in Mooney, and the other coming from Storm off a wild pitch to make the score 4-3 Duke heading into the eighth. The bottom of the eighth is when Duke pulled away, showcasing the same dominant hitting that was visible in Friday and Saturday’s wins with five hits, including a big double down the right field line from Fischer. The Bears were unable to respond in the ninth and were put away handily by relief pitcher James Tallon on the mound, who was credited with the save.
The Blue Devils' slower start Sunday, compared to Friday and Saturday, did not phase them. Sophomore relief pitcher Fran Oschell III got his first-career win Sunday, playing a key role in Duke’s defensive stand with four strikeouts and no runs allowed.
“Our hitters are having a really good season so far … it's easy to trust that you know when they get off to a slow start, they're gonna get going eventually,” Oschell said.
“I thought we played well in all phases of the game … hitting was great, our defense was great, I thought our pitching was great all around,” he added.
Mooney said that “staying locked in the entire game,” and “not really letting previous at-bats affect future at-bats” was key to staying competitive Sunday when the game started less seamlessly than usual. Often in sports, we see teams grow comfortable when facing an opponent that they have easily beaten before, but the Blue Devils never underestimated Baylor and were able to maintain their intensity throughout the series.
“Everyone can beat everybody in college baseball,” said Mooney.
Duke hosts No. 20 East Carolina Tuesday, which will be its first ranked matchup of the season, but that does not seem to intimidate the team. Over the weekend, the Blue Devils will host another three-game series against Princeton.
“We don't care who’s in the other dugout, we don’t care what the name is across the jersey, we compete against ourselves and the standard of excellence that we’ve set for ourselves,” Pollard said.
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