Duke baseball rebounds from early defeat to dominate weekend series against Princeton

Giovanni DiGiacomo swings in Duke's Sunday win against Princeton.
Giovanni DiGiacomo swings in Duke's Sunday win against Princeton.

Entering its final weekend series before conference play begins, Duke boasted the No. 9 scoring offense in the nation, averaging 11.1 runs per game. Three straight games against Baylor with double-digit runs and a 9-0 win against then-No. 20 East Carolina made it clear that the Blue Devils could swing the bat. 

After an uncharacteristic 7-3 loss in the first game, the team continued its success Saturday and Sunday by combining for 33 runs in overwhelming 21-2 and 12-5 wins against Princeton, further strengthening Duke’s resume. 

Sunday’s game saw Duke come from behind twice before establishing a lead in the fourth inning and never looking back. The Blue Devils tallied 12 runs on 10 hits, and while the pitching staff surrendered 11 hits, they held the Tigers to just 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position. As impressive as their offense has been, just as impressive has been their tenacity when things don’t go their way. 

“I think this team has been pretty good in all phases, and I think what that means is we don't we don't have one way to win,” head coach Chris Pollard said. “You saw it today. We had to score runs, we fell behind twice. We've been able to win 2-1 ball games and we've been able to score runs, so I think we have a lot of different ways that we can win.”

The Blue Devils (8-3) exploded in the bottom of the fourth while trailing 5-3, batting around the lineup and scoring seven. Freshman Tyler Albright led off the inning with a bloop single over the third baseman’s head, and graduate student Giovanni DiGiacomo cranked a moonshot off the top of the wall in left to put runners on second and third. After an Alex Mooney strikeout, Luke Storm seemed to end the inning with a ground ball to second baseman Jake Koonin. 

However, the throw to first was in the dirt and mishandled by first baseman Kyle Vinci, keeping the Duke rally alive and scoring Albright. Junior second baseman Jay Beshears gave the lead back to the Blue Devils with a double off the wall in center, and Alex Stone drove him in to make the score 7-5. 

Back-to-back walks to freshman Andrew Fischer and graduate student Damon Lux brought Albright back up to the plate, where he drove in two more with his second hit of the inning. The final run of the inning came on a successful fake steal attempt, in which Albright purposefully got into a rundown between first and second base to allow Lux enough time to score at home. While the play ended the inning for Duke, it also stretched the lead to five. 

“The best thing that we've done is [that] when we start to score, we don't take our foot off the gas pedal,” Pollard said. “I've coached teams in the past that when they would [take the lead], they would sort of relax, and they would start to coast. This team has been really good at keeping its foot on the gas pedal.” 

The first inning saw both teams get on the board, although they did so in vastly different ways. The Tigers (2-5) got the best of Duke starter Ryan Higgins, with leadoff hitter Brendan Cumming shooting a single into right field before Matt Scannell, a two-way player for Princeton that started the game as the pitcher, drove him in with a two-run home run. 

However, Scannell could not find the same success on the mound, walking three batters and hitting two after Storm reached on an error. By the time Princeton head coach Scott Bradley pulled Scannell out of the game, the Blue Devils had taken the lead 3-2 without recording a single hit. 

When all was said and done, Princeton had outhit Duke 11-10, but the Tigers left 10 runners on base. In large part, this was due to the job done by relief pitchers Aidan Weaver, Fran Oschell III and James Tallon. Weaver and Tallon, both freshmen, each came in with runners on base and got out of the inning without letting Princeton score. This put a halt to the Tigers’ momentum and prevented any crooked numbers like the one Duke put up in the fourth. 

Throughout most of the weekend, the Blue Devils put up impressive offensive statistics. On Saturday, the lineup combined for five home runs, including two from Storm, and the top of the lineup in Mooney, Storm and Beshears combined to hit 15-for-37 in the series. Storm credits offseason work with new hitting coach Eric Tyler and sticking with an approach to the team’s success at the plate. 

“Look at everything, definitely the work. Tyler, he's been a great addition to the coaching staff. I love the guy. He puts us in really good positions to succeed,” Storm said. “Game in and game out I'm grateful for him.” 

Looking forward to Duke’s first ACC series of the season, the squad will face a tall challenge in No. 5 Wake Forest after midweek games Tuesday against Appalachian State and Wednesday against Northeastern. However, both Pollard and Storm referred to the team’s mindset of playing “nameless, faceless opponents.” If the Blue Devils can continue their success against the Demon Deacons, they will certainly make a name for themselves. 

Dom Fenoglio | Sports Managing Editor

Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity sophomore and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


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