Blue Devils cash in on Eagles’ mistakes
N.C. Central’s fielding allowed Duke to take a lead on the Eagles on Wednesday night.
The Blue Devils’ timely hitting added to it while their pitching kept NCCU at bay.
Three NCCU errors led to five unearned runs for Duke, which also collected a dozen hits in an 8-3 non-conference college baseball win at Jack Coombs Field.
Duke (21-14) remained red hot, collecting its ninth win in the past 10 games, with a lopsided win even though both teams collected 12 hits.
NCCU’s errors were the difference.
“Too many mistakes,” NCCU coach Jim Koerner said. “We have to have better starts. We’ve been killing ourselves with some of our starts lately. We made a couple of errors we shouldn’t have made in the first inning, and we were playing catch-up the rest of the game. You can’t do that against this team or any team.”
The Blue Devils grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first inning when the Eagles (21-15) committed a pair of errors that led to three unearned runs.
Facing NCCU pitcher Jordan Quinn (5-1), Duke’s Jeff Kremer appeared to hit into a double play that would have cleared the bases with two outs. But NCCU second baseman Spencer Franceshetti’s errant throw sent Kremer to second instead.
After NCCU first baseman Luis Diaz dropped a foul popup, Duke’s Gabe McCabe took advantage of the second chance to line an RBI single. One out later, Chris Marconcini blasted a two-run home run, his team-leading seventh homer of the season, for a 3-0 Duke lead.
“We had a really good idea what (Quinn) was going throw because we’ve already seen him once,” Marconcini said. “I just had to stay back and wait. He came in with, I think, an off-speed (pitch). I just stayed back, put my foot down early and took it out to right.”
Quinn settled down after the rough first inning, keeping the Blue Devils from adding to their total. Meanwhile, NCCU scored single runs in the second and fourth innings and trailed 3-2.
NCCU missed a chance to tie the game in the sixth inning when it lost a baserunner at third and was the victim of a sparkling Duke defensive play.
After NCCU’s Carter Williamson drew a lead-off walk, he took off for second on a 3-2 pitch to Spencer Franceschetti. When Franceschetti lined a single to left field, Williamson turned the corner at second and raced to third.
But Duke left fielder Mark Lumpa quickly fired the ball to third baseman Jordan Betts, who tagged Williamson out.
After a groundout, Akeem Hood’s two-out bid to drive in Franceshetti and tie the game ended when Andy Perez made a diving play to snare Hood’s line drive up the middle and end the threat.
“We needed a spark right there,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said. “Our energy level wasn’t great. Quinn kind of had us tied up offensively. I think frustration sets in when you are not making that adjustment. We loosened a little bit as a team right there.
“If that ball gets through, it’s a tie game and they have momentum. It was a heck of a play.”
The Blue Devils certainly loosened up at the plate, scoring five runs over the next three innings to build a comfortable lead.
Duke manufactured an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning while collecting just one hit.
Marconcini was hit by a Quinn pitch to start the inning before he took second on a Lumpa single. Kenny Koplove moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt and Reed Anthes drove in Marconcini with a groundout for a 4-2 Duke lead.
“I thought we did a really good job when we came out in the sixth inning and finally made an adjustment offensively,” Pollard said. “Teams haven’t been able to make that adjustment against (Quinn). I think it’s a credit to our team that we made that adjustment, and we had pretty good at-bats the rest of the game.”
The Blue Devils added two more runs for a 6-2 lead in the seventh when they received more help from an NCCU’s fielding. Perez, who had four hits, and Grant McCabe, who was 3-for-3, each singled to put Duke runners at first and third with one out.
McCabe attempted to steal second base and stopped short when NCCU catcher James Dey fired to second. But the throw was low and the ball skipped into center field. Perez scored and McCabe took third on the error.
Betts followed with a sacrifice fly to center to drive in McCabe with yet another unearned run.
Dalton Brown (1-0) picked up the win for Duke with Sarkis Ohanian and Nick Hendrix each tossing two scoreless innings in relief.