HULL, East Yorkshire – Durham University (5-1) squeezed out a win in a pitching duel against Hull University’s Dom Rawlins in the first game of a doubleheader before breaking out the bats in the rubber game for a sweep against the Scorpions. Hull (0-3-1) took the tough loss in the opening game of the home-and-away friendly series, 6-4, while Man of the Match Cameron Richardson flashed the glove and drove in three in the 16-9 victory.
The Palatinates scratched across a run in the first inning on a two-out single by Brad Jones, on which he advanced to second on a fielding error. Drew Graf stroked an infield hit to third to Jones and advanced all the way to third on a throwing error and a subsequent ball, but Hull’s Rawlins buckled down to get the third out.
Durham starter T.J. Garske worked around a hit batter and full count walk with one down to keep the Scorpions scoreless before the Bishops plated three in the second frame. With one down, Gus Taglio worked a walk and stole second and scored on a botched pickoff attempt. Rawlins got the second out before the defense did him in with a dropped catch in centre on a ball hit by Brad Bentz. Bentz stole two and scored on another miscue that allowed Amané Sobue to reach. Will Zucker drove in Sobue with a ball roped to right centre that the skipper stretched to a double to put the score at 4-0.
It was nothing doing against the locked-in Garske, who went 1-2-3 in the second, with a strikeout on a nice breaking ball. Durham looked to be pulling away after Graf crushed a ball to left field that went out for a ground rule double, and Marcus Helland drove him home with a safety to left. Graf was the only visitor to collect a brace of hits in the first game. Rawlins, however, struck out the next two batters to end the threat.
Hull got on the board in the bottom of the third after Alex Corser worked a nice 10-pitch walk from the dialled-in Garske, who gave up a big two-bagger to Rich Turpin to put runners on second-and-third. Durham’s veteran righthander got the two and three hitters to strike out, the latter frozen as Garske continued to paint the corners. The hurler jammed the sacks with an eight-pitch free pass to Eddie Drydale and labouring at the end of the long inning lost Johnathan Downs to another base-on-balls to walk in a run. A flight ball to Graf in right ended the threat with Durham up 3-1.
Rawlins continued his strong pitching with a three-up, three-down fourth, striking out Sobue and Zucker, the top two in Durham’s lineup, and the Scorpions chipped away at the deficit in the bottom of the fourth against Jack Andrew.
Durham’s latest addition to the pitching staff struggled to find the zone, walking the first three batters. Andrew got a handy popup to Jones at short, but walked in a run before a very close call on a full count ended in another free pass. With the game close, Zucker went to the mound and pulled Andrew, bringing in his ace Jones. A Jones pitch went wild, but Amané Sobue whipped it in to the hurler for the out at home. The flamethrower then dialled up the heat for a K to end the two-run inning.
With the score 5-3 in the final frame, the Bishops got an insurance run after cleanup hitter Graf worked a seven-pitch walk and swiped second and third with one down. Durham’s final run was plated on a wild pitch, and Jones returned to the mound for the save.
A quick out had the Palatinates feeling positive, but a throwing error from third put a runner aboard, and three free passes in-a-row allowed Hull to push a run across with only one down. Jones bore down and dialled up the fastball, striking out the No. 1 and 2 batters to preserve the win.
Garske (1-1) went three innings, allowed one earned run on a hit and four walks, whiffing three. Andrew hurled one-third of a frame, before Jones finished for his second save in two opportunities. The righty allowed an unearned run in 1 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out three. Durham’s all-time leader in most pitching categories kept his ERA at 0.00 in 7 2/3 innings, running his season strikeout total to 17 in the process.
Rawlins took the tough loss, flashing plus stuff in five frames. He gave up only two earned runs and struck out seven, allowing five hits and three walks. Rich Turpin had the Scorpions’ only safety, while Alex Corser worked free passes in all three plate appearances.
The Black-and-Purple got off to a fast start in the nightcap, plating four runs after Hull’s hurler struggled to find the strike zone. With no outs and the bases loaded, Graf laced a two-run safety to drive in two, before Taglio plate a third run with a grounder. Graf would then score on a wild pitch before Hull got out of the jam.
Gabriel Fidler got his third start of the season and looked comfortable on the mound in the first, striking out the leadoff hitter before losing a slider on a 1-2 count to hit the second batter. A single from Max Kornmann to left looked to move the runner over, but leftfielder Richardson threw a bullet into third to nab the runner and retire the second out. Kornmann would score after stealing third when a throw from the catcher went wild, but after a free pass, Fidler would end the inning with a K on a nifty circle change.
The Bishops put the game out of reach in the second, hanging a ‘9’ on the scoreboard. The big blows were a two-run single by Richardson and a pair of RBIs from Laurence Hodgkins, who ripped a ground rule double for left that would have gone for three without the ruling.
With a 13-1 lead and 13 batters having hit in the inning, Fidler went back to the hill and showed clear signs of the long frame, walking the first five batters in the frame, the last on a very close full count pitch. Feeling more himself, Durham’s hurler got a strikeout to put one down before inducing what appeared to be an inning-ending double play, but the runner was called safe by a hair at first. Not letting the call bother him, Fidler got another bouncer to short. After the Hull runner screened shortstop Harry Winter on the play, the third out was called on interference and Durham was out of the jam with a 13-4 margin.
New Hull hurler Alistair entered, dealing from a funky lefthanded motion. After a quick out, Taglio ripped a two-base hit to left centre that the hustling Scorpion centerfielder almost grabbed, but just grazed his outstretched glove. Richardson hit a slow roller to third and appeared to be safe at third, but the hustling Taglio made a head’s-up play and scored as a strong throw beat him by a half-step.
That was all Durham would get in the inning, and Marcus Helland the relieved Fidler. The 6-6 hurler made short work of the hapless Hull batters, whiffing three in-a-row to send the game to its final frame.
Fidler worked his second walk of the game to lead off the fourth, stealing second easily and moving to third on a tapper by Winter. Alistair flashed a nice curve ball in getting the second out swinging, but Zucker pinch hit and beat out an infield hit to plate Fidler. The skipper would then score Durham’s final run on a dropped fly ball from the bat of Bentz.
Taglio came in to close the game and showed some rust, struggling through control problems on the way to giving up five runs. The versatile Newcastle University player did strike out two and benefited from a slick caught stealing by Garske, who donned the tools of ignorance for the first time this year.
Fidler (1-1 in all competitions) was the beneficiary of the run support in recording the first pitching victory of his career in three starts. He tossed a pair of frames, giving up three earned runs on two hits and six walks, whiffing three.
No Durham hitter had more than one hit, though Richardson was the star with three RBI despite two very close calls on infield hits. The Black-and-Purple scored their 16 runs on seven hits and nine walks, committing four errors. Hull plated nine runners, but did so on 13 walks and only two hits. They were charged with two miscues.
On the day, Durham had 12 hits and a dozen walks, stealing 16 bases. Graf had the most hits and runs with a 3-for-4, two walk, three-run day. Both Jack Andrew and Lizzie Robertson earned their first Durham caps in the victory, joining Taglio and Graf in the feat. Robertson was rudely greeted in her second with a nasty ball to the hand, but remained in the game and scored.
Hull University will travel to Durham on 11 May to seek revenge in the home-and-away series. The doubleheader will be held at Maiden Castle as a historic first-ever home opener. More information will be available on DU Baseball’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/durhamuniversitybaseball or on Twitter @Durham_Baseball.