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Wake Forest shuts down Duke offense in 3-1 win Saturday

Posted Sunday, May 11, 2008

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Durham, NC - Charlie Mellies pitched a complete game four-hitter and gave up just one run to lead Wake Forest to a 3-1 win over Duke Saturday afternoon at Gene Hooks Stadium.

Mellies (3-5) fired 118 pitches in the game, 79 of which were strikes. He struck out four, walked three and held Duke scoreless over his final seven innings to give Wake Forest (21-27, 10-15 ACC) a guaranteed series victory over the Blue Devils (34-16-1, 8-16-1 ACC). After giving up an RBI single to Duke freshman Jake Lemmerman in the second inning, Mellies allowed no more than one runner to reach base in each of his final seven frames.

Lemmerman's two-out RBI single in the second was the lone offensive highlight for the Blue Devils, whose other three singles came off the bats of catcher Matt Williams, left fielder Jeremy Gould and designated hitter Jonathan Nicolla. Center fielder Alex Hassan reached base twice with a pair of walks while also picking up his team-leading third outfield assist of the season after gunning down Wake Forest shortstop Dustin Hood at the plate in the eighth.

Duke will have a chance to salvage a series split on Sunday, May 11, in game three which has been moved up to a noon start. The game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m., but will be pushed up an hour due to the threat of rain.

Sophomore left hander Christopher Manno (6-1) took his first loss of the season after giving up three runs on three hits over five complete innings. All three of Wake Forest's runs came by way of the long ball, as catcher Mike Murray tied the game with a solo homer in the second before designated hitter Willy Fox put Wake Forest ahead for good with a two-run shot in the third. Manno struck out four and walked two in the game, giving him 75 punchouts and 18 walks on the season. The two home runs he surrendered were only his second and third of the season, bumping from him atop the ACC leaderboard in fewest home runs allowed.

Relievers Will Currier and Ryan Perry kept Duke in the game with a combined three scoreless innings, but could do little to jump start Duke's offense against Mellies. Currier struck out two and gave up a hit over 1.2 innings while Perry scattered three hits over 1.1 frames.

Duke got on the board early thanks to the two-out RBI single from Lemmerman in the second inning. Lemmerman's base knock, his 55th of the season, sent in Nicolla from second base after the senior designated hitter started the rally by drawing a two-out walk. Nicolla fell behind 0-2 in the count, but watched the next four pitches go by out of the zone before he moved to second one pitch later when Ryan McCurdy was hit by his 23rd pitch of the season. Lemmerman then came to the plate and fought off a 1-0 fastball on his hands to send it back up the middle for Duke's first run of the ballgame.

The 1-0 lead did not last long though, as Murray opened the bottom half of the second with a first-pitch home run down the right field line. Manno settled down after the home run though and sat down three of the next four Wake Forest hitters, striking out a pair for his first two punchouts of the game.

The Deacs kept the momentum in their favor in their next offensive series though, going ahead 3-1 on a two-run homer down the right field line by Fox. Fox's long ball stayed just inside the right field foul pole and scored nine-hitter Steven Brooks after he opened the inning with a walk. The homer was only the third allowed this season by Manno, who entered the game tied with teammate Jonathan Foreman for the fewest allowed in the conference. Fox's homer gave Mellies a two-run lead to work with, which was plenty for the senior right-hander for the rest of the game.

Hood opened the fourth with a leadoff single to right field, but got no further than first base thanks to Duke's defense. Hood had a chance to move over to third and possibly even score, but Gould robbed Andy Goff of a potential double with a diving grab in the left field gap. The play forced Hood to retrace his steps to first base after he was three quarters of the way to second when Gould made the catch. Right fielder Tim Sherlock then caught a flyout before second baseman Gabriel Saade ended the inning after fielding a ground ball up the middle and firing to first for the final out.

Manno put the leadoff batter on base again in the fifth, but once again settled down to escape the inning unharmed. Brooks drew his second consecutive walk and stole second to put himself in scoring position with one out, but Manno helped himself out by fielding a ground ball to his right and getting the out at first to hold Brooks at second. He then went to a full count against Fox before striking him out with a fastball up in the zone, but had no choice to concede a stolen base on the play when Fox took off for third on the pitch. Fox got no further though, as Manno got a tough out by inducing an inning-ending groundout to third from Wake Forest cleanup hitter Allan Dykstra.

Meanwhile, Mellies had allowed just three Blue Devils to reach base since the second inning. After retiring the side in order in the third, Mellies sat down 12 of his next 15, giving up just one more hit and a walk heading into the top of the eighth. He held the Blue Devils scoreless for five straight innings after giving up Lemmerman's RBI single in the second.

Though Manno had held Wake Forest to three hits over the first five innings, his pitch count reached 104 before the start of the sixth. Currier took over for his sophomore counterpart at the start of the sixth and extended a streak of three straight scoreless innings by sitting down his first two batters before Williams erased a two-out walk to Goff by throwing him out at second base on a stolen base attempt.

Currier came out in the same fashion in the bottom of the seventh and struck out a pair, but gave up a walk to Tyler Smith and a two-out single to leadoff hitter Ben Terry to put a pair of runners on base. Duke then brought in Perry to get out of the pressure situation, who did not make it any easier on himself after walking Fox to load the bases and bring up one of the top hitters in the conference in Dykstra. Perry was anything but intimidated, however, and went ahead 0-2 in the count before coming inside with a curve ball that just missed the corner for a ball. Dykstra yanked Perry's next offering foul before watching the next pitch come inside for another ball. Perry came back with an off-speed pitch on the outside part of the plate that Dykstra fouled off again, but got him swinging on his next offering by running a breaking ball in on his hands.

The Deacs were not fooled by Perry's stuff in the eighth, however, and pounded three straight singles in the frame. The third single came with runners on first and second and could have added to Wake's 3-1 lead, but Hassan saved the run by firing a strike to the plate to gun down Hood by less than a step. Hassan was playing up on the single and fielded Eric Williams' base hit in shallow center field. He scooped up the ball and crow-hopped a throw to the plate that took one hop past the cutoff man and landed square in the mitt of Williams, who swung around and put the tag on Hood's outstretched arm. The base hit still left a pair on base, but Perry ended the threat by inducing a groundout to the right side.

After he held Duke scoreless once again in the eighth, the Deacs opted to let Mellies finish the game in the ninth. Mellies needed just 10 pitches to lock up the complete game, despite giving up a single to Nicolla. He got some help from his defense in the inning when Terry made a diving catch in center field to rob McCurdy of a base hit.

The Blue Devils have a shot to split the series on Sunday, May 11, in the finale which has been moved up an hour to noon. Duke Will start right hander Jonathan Foreman (2-0, 1.68 ERA), who owns the eighth-lowest earned run average in the country and the lowest in the ACC. Wake Forest will counter with converted reliever Brad Kledzik (1-4, 8.10 ERA).

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