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Healy Deals and Duke Slugs Past NC State

Andrew Healy dazzled for five shutout innings while the Blue Devils exploded for eight runs on four homers as Duke beat rival NC State 8-1 to claim a spot in the ACC Semi-Finals on Saturday in Charlotte.

For four innings, it was an old-fashioned pitching duel as NC State veteran Sam Highfill matched a resurgent Andrew Healy pitch for pitch. Neither team had a hit until Eli Serrano singled for the Wolfpack to lead off the fourth inning. Healy, who is making only his third start since returning from injury, carved up and down the NC State lineup through five shutout innings while only allowing that Serrano single. He was able to throw 59 pitches as he continues to return to full strength from injury.

"It's really, really, really, really neat to see him back all the way healthy," Duke Head Coach Chris Pollard said post-game. "He's battled a bunch of little lagging things all year so [it's good to] see him kind of round into shape here at the right time for us."

"It was just kind of fun competing up there," Healy explained. "Tt's just being on the mound, it's a good feeling, being around fans and being the villain with everyone against you. It's fun to kind of quiet them a little bit. But they're a really good team, so it wasn't easy."

The most exciting defensive play occurred in the 3rd inning of a 0-0 game. Duke freshman left fielder Chase Krewson, one of the heroes of Tuesday's win over Virginia Tech, made his second incredible defensive play in as many games. The Bridgeville, Pennsylvania native charged in on a Noah Soles liner to shallow left and made a fully extending diving catch to rob the Wolfpack of a base hit.

Two innings later, it was the freshman again having a breakout moment this week as he broke the 0-0 deadlock in the Top of the 5th with a solo shot to left. This comes after his two rbi single that completed the comeback against Virginia Tech on Tuesday night.

"He's been a spark for our team over the second half of the year," Pollard said. "Chase missed his entire senior year of high school with an injury and still battled that injury through the fall of his freshman year with us. (3:52) And then right as the foot was getting healthy, he broke the hamate bone in his hand and missed more time."

The Duke head coach continued, "So, this is a guy that hadn't played just a lot of competitive baseball in over a year. And early on, there was some rust there because of it, but he showed a ton of competitiveness, and he's got a great work ethic. The more he plays, the more you're seeing the type of player that he is."

Until the 5th inning Krewson home run, Duke hadn't mustered a single hit. The freshman sparked an onslaught as the Blue Devils promptly loaded the bases for Tuesday's other hero, Zac Morris. The VMI transfer homered twice and drove in five runs against Virginia Tech and might be in the running for the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player. The All ACC first teamer delivered what is the longest home run of the tournament so far-- 455 feet-- for a back breaking grand slam.

"He was right on another slider," Pollard said. "Our game plan was to take away the fastball. And he was sitting fastball timing and just reacted to it. Same thing he did on Tuesday night, and he got it."

Another freshman, AJ Gracia, would add a solo shot himself to complete the six run 5th inning, ending Highfill's night after just 4.1 innings. A predominately red crowd of Wolfpack fans sat in stunned disbelief as a small contingent of blue cheered behind the Duke dugout. An inning later, Devin Obee would hit a two run blast off Jacob Dudan to extend the Blue Devil lead to 8-0. The home run was off the top of the wall and appeared to be a double, but an interesting group of fans made the Duke bench aware that it was a home run, which allowed Coach Pollard to call for a review.

"Once I got to second, Roman DiGiacomo and Noah Murray looked out to the outfield and saw that some fans were cheering, saying, home run, home run, home run," Obee explained. "So they reviewed it, and luckily, it was a home run And once I got out there [to center field], I found out that [the fans] was the UNC baseball team."

The Wolfpack would get a run back in the 9th thanks to a Jacob Cozart RBI double, but that was the only blemish on Duke's night. Alec Makarewicz was the only NC State player to reach base multiple times as he went 2-4 with two singles on the night. NC State will head back to Raleigh to await a probable Regional hosting opportunity, while Duke will next play on Saturday against Miami in the ACC Tournament Semi-Finals.

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