Torres and Gold combine for 3 grand slams as No. 5 Duke softball wallops NDSU in home opener

Kelly Torres rounds the bases after her grand slam against NDSU.
Kelly Torres rounds the bases after her grand slam against NDSU.

On a sunny Valentine’s Day, spring arrived early for the lucky spectators in attendance as Duke took the field at home for the first time in 2024. The starting nine took the field and softball season officially got underway in Durham. 

However, this wasn’t a typical home opener for the fifth-ranked Blue Devils. Duke has been tested on the diamond already this year, as it took on the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, last weekend. Head coach Marissa Young’s team finished with a 3-1 record, with its only loss coming at the hands of Oklahoma, the reigning Division-I national champions. The weekend’s experience clearly prepared Duke for Wednesday’s matchup against North Dakota State, who it scorched 18-0.

Despite a “great weekend in Mexico,” Young was glad to be back to earning victories in the familiarity of Durham.

 “Being able to win at home in big fashion in our season opener here in front of our fans was special,” she said.

The affair was special, to say the least. The Blue Devils (4-1) tallied 11 runs before making their first out in the first inning, with the run total good for a single-inning team record. The frame was carried by grand slams by senior Kelly Torres and junior Ana Gold. There was a smattering of RBI singles through the rest of the inning, and Duke was firmly in control from the start. Torres said postgame that it was the first grand slam of her life, including her four years at Duke, high school and youth league. 

The second inning featured a three-run bomb from second baseman Aminah Vega, and the third inning provided an opportunity for pitcher Lillie Walker to get a plate appearance, and Gold hit her second grand slam of the day. Due to the early blitz, the game was ended by the mercy rule after just four-and-a-half innings. 

Gold’s banner performance was Duke’s first two-grand-slam day by one player, and a single-game RBI record. One wouldn’t have guessed she had a relatively off weekend in Mexico, over the course of which she only tallied two hits. She attributed her change to simply “going back to the basics, and not trying to do too much.” 

“I cut down on my stride so I could see the ball better, and it ended up working out,” Gold said.

The 18 times the Blue Devils crossed the plate signify the third-highest scoring game in the program’s young history, and hopefully for Duke fans, is an auspicious start for this year’s team at home.

On the other side of the ball, the Blue Devils’ run prevention was adroit. Dani Drogemuller started in the circle, passed the ball off to Walker and ace Cassidy Curd came out of the bullpen to finish off the Bison (3-4). For the defense, Gold had a web gem of a diving play at third base, which punctuated an error-free performance for Duke. 

“This team has the potential to win the ACC Championship, and you’ll see us in the College World Series,” Torres said. 

Suffice to say, if the Blue Devils can post performances like this through the rest of the year, Torres’ prognostication will be well-supported.

Next up for the Blue Devils is a trip down to Miami for the FIU Invitational Friday, with matchups against Rutgers, FIU and Army currently on the slate.


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