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BASE: Duke sweeps doubleheader with Notre Dame

Posted March 16

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— The Blue Devil pitching staff limited the Irish to one run over two games and freshman Cris Perez delivered a walk-off RBI double to help the Duke baseball team sweep both games of a doubleheader against Notre Dame Saturday afternoon at Jack Coombs Field.

Game 1
Junior right-hander Andrew Istler earned his third victory in as many starts while the Blue Devils amassed four two-out RBI en route to a 4-1 victory over the Irish in game one.

After yielding a lone run in the third, Istler (3-2) buckled down and did not allow a hit the rest of the way, matching his career high by tossing eight complete innings. The Wellington, Fla., native walked two, struck out five and did not allow an extra base hit in the win.

Four of the Blue Devils’ seven hits in the game came with two outs as Duke (12-8, 4-2 ACC) was able to capitalize on its scoring opportunities. Senior Jordan Betts led the way with two base knocks, while Mark Lumpa, Mike Rosenfeld, Chris Marconcini and Andy Perez added a hit and an RBI apiece.

“We did a great job with two outs,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “We did a great job of having an answer … they scored a run in the third and we came back and scored three in the bottom. Obviously we had the two-out RBI single in the fourth and one real key in that moment was that Istler went out and had a shutdown inning after each and kept any runs off the board.”

Istler struck out the side in the second before running into trouble in the third following three straight base hits. Mac Hudgins led off with a single and scored on Kyle Fiala base hit to give the Irish the early advantage. With runners on second and third, Istler was able to minimize the damage with a strikeout and grounder to second.

Perez was hit by a pitch to spark a three-run Duke rally in the third. Perez swiped second to move into scoring position and the Blue Devils notched three consecutive two-out hits to take a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way. Lumpa lined an RBI single to tie the game before Rosenfeld tripled and Marconcini doubled to keep the inning going.

Duke tacked on an insurance run in the fourth as Ryan Deitrich doubled and then scored on a Perez base hit.

Istler took care of the rest as Notre Dame failed to move a runner into scoring position over the final six frames. Senior Robert Huber then closed out the ninth for his fourth save of the season.

Game 2
Following eight scoreless innings of play, freshman Cris Perez roped an RBI double to left field to score the game-winning run in the Blue Devils’ 1-0 victory over the Irish.

Duke loaded the bases in the first, but was unable to capitalize on the opportunity as Notre Dame starter Pat Connaughton escaped the jam unscathed. Connaghton scattered three hits over three scoreless innings in the no decision.

In his first appearance since Feb. 15, Duke starter Michael Matuella pitched three perfect frames, striking out the first five batters he faced to keep Notre Dame off the board.

Neither team could find its rhythm at the plate as the two squads battled through eight scoreless innings. Notre Dame mounted a serious threat in the ninth as Balise Lezynski doubled to start off the inning. After earning the save in game one, Huber took the mound again and tossed out Lezynski trying to score on a squeeze play for the first out of the inning. Hudgins flied out to right for the second out before a walk to pinch hitter Ryan Lidge loaded the bases. Huber then delivered a 3-2 pitch on the outside corner to get Conor Biggio looking to keep the 0-0 tie intact.

Marconcini reached on an error to start the bottom of the ninth and rookie Perez then provided the pinch-hit heroics to secure the sweep for the Blue Devils.

“[C. Perez] is continuing to have terrific at bats,” Pollard said. “That was another one. To go 2-0 in that situation, a lot of guys would have been in automatic take mode. He stayed aggressive, looking to hit and really drove the baseball. I’m really proud of him and he’s going to continue to factor in to this club.”

Huber appeared in all three games for the Blue Devils, picking up wins in the first and third games while recording the save in the second contest.

Duke returns to action with two midweek games at home before traveling to Pitt. The Blue Devils host Maryland Eastern Shore Tuesday before welcoming Princeton to Jack Coombs Field Wednesday.

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