FARNHAM PARK, Bucks. – Durham University ripped 21 hits and Marcus Helland pitched five solid innings as the Palatinates blasted Imperial College London 23-3 at the National University Baseball Championship.
Imperial College got off to a strong start against Helland. The first two batters reached on a hit batter and a free pass, with a fielder’s choice putting runners on the corners. Another plunking jammed the bases, and the Falcons’ five-hole hitter ripped a ball to left that plated two. Imperial ran itself into an out as Andrew Poole gunned the ball from left to home, and Helland dropped the tag for out number two. A third run crossed the plate on an error to make it 3-0 Imperial, but Durham’s starter then got out of the frame with a big strikeout.
Durham started promisingly in the bottom of the first frame with an Amané Sobue leadoff single, with Poole following him with a walk. A groundball forceout put runners on the corners, and T.J. Garske added to his RBI streak with a chopper to score Sobue. Notts would take a 3-1 lead to the top of the second.
Helland settled down in the second, facing the minimum after a leadoff walk was erased on a caught stealing. The black-and-purple batters evened the score in the bottom of the frame, with back-to-back two-baggers from Brad Bentz and Laurence Hodgkins each driving in a run.
Poole bailed out Helland again in the third after a two-out hit-by-pitch and a pair of stolen bases put a runner on third. Imperial’s five hitter stroked a safety to left, and Poole rifled in a throw to nail the runner at the plate and save a run.
With the score knotted at three, Durham finally set to work in the fourth, hanging a crooked number on the scoreboard. With one out, Helland backed his cause with a triple, scoring on grounder that the Falcons’ shortstop booted. Things unravelled from there for ICL, who committed four errors in the frame around four more hits and a free pass. Robin Wallich had a RBI-double and Sam Ross scored twice in the inning.
Imperial could do nothing against Helland, who strolled through the fourth with a 1-2-3 effort, whiffing a pair. Durham hung a five on the ‘board in the bottom of the inning on five hits and two freebies, and the margin grew to 15-3.
Helland hurled his final frame in the fifth, working around a leadoff error and a walk to get the next three and finish with a strong five innings, two earned run performance. He walked four and hit three batters, but gave up only two hits and three total runs, sending down five swinging for the victory.
The black-and-purple kept up the hitting explosion in its final frame, bashing out another seven run inning. Sobue and Helland both had two-run doubles in the attack, which saw seven safeties and only one out before the tournament’s mercy rule was effected.
Will Zucker came on for the final frame and battled rustiness, walking three but escaping unscathed to clinch fourth place for Durham (3-1) in the tournament. The 23 runs and 21 hits were both highs at the NUBC.
The hitting leaders were Helland, who got the job done on both sides of the ball with a 4-for-5, three RBI performance. He finished a four-bagger short of the cycle and reached base in all five times at bat. Not to be outdone, team hitting leader Sobue also dropped a 4-for-5 effort, scoring and driving in three and stealing a base. Sobue is now hitting .667 through four contests. Sam Ross and Hodgkins both stroked three hits, while Ross equalled the leaders with three RBI.
The Palatinates settled for fourth place out of nine teams, outscoring their opponents 47-21, hitting an even .400 in 105 at bats, with a 4.95 ERA, striking out 11.7 per nine innings.
Durham will take a couple weeks off for Easter holidays and will return in April with contests against other British university teams before a late May trip to Belfast for the Ulster Invitational Tournament.