No. 9 Duke turns back Liberty, 5-2

liberty baseballThe ninth-ranked Duke Blue Devils topped the Liberty Flames, 5-2, Tuesday evening at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

The Blue Devils jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the first four innings en route to the win.

Liberty falls to 26-21 on the season. The Flames have lost five straight, tying their longest losing skid of the year. Duke moves to 35-11. The Blue Devils, who rank has high as ninth in the national polls, have won five consecutive contests.

Duke plated the game’s first run in the third. Third baseman Jack Labosky opened the bottom of the inning with a double down the left field line. Two batters later, catcher Chris Proctor dropped a single into center, scoring Labosky for a 1-0 edge.

The Blue Devils extended their advantage in the fourth. First baseman Joey Loperfido doubled off the left field wall to begin the home half of the frame. Right fielder Griffin Conine followed with a run-scoring single for a 2-0 lead. Two batters later, designated hitter Michael Smicklas scored Conine with a triple to right field which was lost in the setting sun.

After a Liberty pitching change, Duke loaded the bases with one out and made it, 4-0 on a single by left fielder Jimmy Herron. Shortstop Zack Kone followed with RBI sacrifice fly to give the host Blue Devils a 5-0 lead.

Held to two hits through the first five innings, Liberty struck for two runs in the sixth. Second baseman Ben Highfill led off the inning with a single back through the middle of the diamond. Two batters later, left fielder Tre Todd was hit by a pitch. After both runners advance into scoring position on a passed ball, third baseman Tyler Galazin lined a two-run single to right field, slicing the Duke advantage to 5-2.

Liberty starting pitcher Brady Stamper falls to 3-3 on the year. The right-hander allowed five runs on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings. The freshman walked two batters.

Vinnie Tarantola took over in the fourth inning and went the rest of the way for the Flames. The left-hander pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out three and walked three.

Duke starting pitcher Bill Chillari raises his record to 6-1. The left-hander held the Flames to one hit over the first four innings. He struck out five and did not batter.

Labosky pitched the ninth to earn his eighth save of the season. The fifth pitcher of the game for the Blue Devils, he struck out two.

Liberty had six hits in the contest and committed the game’s only error. Duke collected 10 hits.

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