After coming close to winning two-of-three against consecutive ranked opponents — Wake Forest and North Carolina — the Blue Devils were finally able to win the rubber match.
In a statement win Sunday that secured the team’s first ranked series win of the year, Duke defeated No. 16 Boston College 6-2 in Chestnut Hill, Mass. The Blue Devils led from the first inning, but the difference-maker came in the ninth, when freshman Andrew Fischer put the game out of reach with a three-run home run. Fellow freshman and PNC Achievers Student-Athlete of the Week James Tallon shut the door to earn his eighth save of the year.
"It's just special. You talk about some young guys that just do special things right now. They are so good and make it look so easy, that you almost expect them to succeed,” head coach Chris Pollard told GoDuke.com. “We have to step back and realize how impressive what they are doing is because it is unique.”
After squandering a 3-0 lead Friday and a 6-1 lead Saturday, it seemed as though the Blue Devils (23-12, 9-8 in the ACC) were again going to fall victim to a comeback Sunday, when two late-inning runs put the Eagles within striking distance. Sophomore Sam McNulty drove in senior Vince Cimini in the sixth, and a solo home run from junior Cameron Leary in the seventh made the score 3-2 and gave Boston College all of the momentum.
Fischer, however, had other plans. Graduate student Cole Hebble and sophomore Alex Mooney got things going with two ninth-inning singles, and Boston College head coach Mike Gambino opted to bring in a new pitcher to face the red-hot freshman. The change did not phase Fischer, who launched his Duke freshman-record ninth home run well over the right field fence at Eddie Pellagrini Diamond to give the Blue Devils a 6-2 lead.
“It is pretty special what he is doing, and that was as big a swing as we have had all year," Pollard told GoDuke.
Playing three close games against a team as talented as Boston College meant that Pollard needed big outings from a number of his pitchers. Three innings from sophomore Fran Oschell III Friday and 2 2/3 innings from freshman Owen Proksch Saturday allowed Pollard to save Tallon for the finale. The left-hander dominated the Eagles’ lineup through his two innings of work Sunday, allowing just one runner to reach base on a hit by pitch.
Duke seemed ready to avenge its loss Saturday from the game’s first batter, as Mooney opened the game with a double down the left field line. Two productive outs from Fischer and junior Alex Stone brought the captain in to score, and starting pitcher Ryan Higgins ran with the lead.
The sophomore, who has not allowed an earned run since March 18 against Clemson, went five innings while holding Boston College to just one hit. While he only struck out three batters, he kept the Eagles on their toes and allowed very little hard contact.
"Unbelievable job by Higgins today. It was a career high in innings today and he was in complete control from the very first pitch. He had everything working,” Pollard said.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils were able to tack on two more in the fourth. With junior Luke Storm on third, graduate student Damon Lux stole second. Boston College catcher Peter Burns threw the ball into center field, allowing Storm to score and graduate student Giovanni DiGiacomo came through moments later with a single to score Lux.
Even without starting second baseman Jay Beshears, who left Saturday’s game with an apparent injury, Duke totaled 11 hits Sunday. In fact, seven different Blue Devils registered a hit, allowing the lineup to turn over quickly and giving Mooney and Fischer more plate appearances.
The team will need its entire lineup to continue to feel confident heading into another top-25 matchup next weekend against No. 13 Louisville. Another series win could put Duke, which currently sits just a half game behind North Carolina and Miami in the Coastal Division, into second place in its division and third in the ACC.
The Blue Devils first take the field Tuesday evening against William & Mary at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
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Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.