by Mike Potter
DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK/DURHAM Duke has a new primary home for its baseball team, and the Blue Devils are hosting their first home game on a very nippy afternoon.
For their sake, at least the sun is out.
The opponent is Fordham in the opener of a three-game series. It's the first meeting with the Rams since the spring of 1941. Before World War II, even. History.
Duke will play 18 games at the Durham Bulls' facility and 13 at Jack Coombs Field, with every home ACC series here except the one against Florida State April 16-18 during the Bulls' opening homestand.
Duke will try to qualify for the ACC Tournament for the second straight season, making its first appearance since 2005 last season when the event was in Durham. The Blue Devils are 1-3 after playing in an event at Baylor last weekend that included a victory over No. 22 Georgia.
The park isn't quite ready for prime time, as the concrete in the grandstands is being resealed and almost every seat in the primary seating bowl except for the box seats has been temporarily removed for the project. The Blue Devils' first workout here was Thursday.
Duke goes today with Michael Ness (0-0, 1.80), while Max Krakowiak (0-1, 0.00) starts for the Rams. And the Blue Devils survive with a bottom-of-the-ninth rally in a 5-4 victory.
Fordham scores a run in the first when leadoff man Brian Kownacki doubles past first and scores on Chris Walker's double to right.
Duke retaliates in the bottom of the frame, as Ryan McCurdy hits a one-out double to left and scores on Jeremy Walker's two-out double to right.
The Blue Devils add a run in the third as Marcus Stroman leads off with a triple to left and scores on a wild pitch.
Fordham gets two in the fourth on Nick Martinez's two-out single to left. But the Devils tie it in the bottom of the frame as Will Piwnica-Worms reaches on an error to shortstop Kownacki and later scores on Gabriel Saade's single to third.
Duke scores a go-ahead run in the eighth off lefty Rich Anastasi. Dennis O'Grady draws a leadoff walk, then takes third on a single to left by pinch-hitter Will Currier. Saade's fly ball to right scores the run.
Fordham ties the score in the ninth off closer Stroman, who moves to the mound from second. P.J. Como draws a walk before pinch-hitter Matt DaSilva rips a long RBI double to center to make it 4-4.
But the Blue Devils win it in the bottom off Anastasi. Jake Lemmerman strokes a one-out single up the middle. Then with two out Piwnica-Worms reaches on an error to third baseman Ryan Maghini and O'Grady follows with the winning single to right.
They said it ...
Duke coach Sean McNally: "You never really understand this place until you get down here and play. Everything's first-class and it's exciting for our guys. It really means a lot. I can't overstate how much fun it is to be down here. The one thing we need to learn is the wind in the bigger stadium. And we need to get a feel for that left-field wall. ... I'm glad we won. I've got a lot of respect for Fordham. They play hard and play the game right. It was a tight ball game. I really liked the way we responded after they tied it when we came right back and scored."
Stroman: "This place is amazing. I got to watch a game here at the beginning of the (academic) year and to find out we were going to play here is just unbelievable. We definitely have one of the nicer facilities in the ACC now. It's fun. ... I'm from the Northeast (Medford, N.Y.) so I'm kind of used to this. You just can't think about it. You go out there and play. From playing the game you just run around and stay loose and then you go pitch."
O'Grady: "I love it here. This is a great ballpark. Everybody's excited to play anyway, but playing here at the DBAP makes it even better than that. ... I was just trying to get ahead and put it in play hard (in the ninth.) Jake had a huge hit to lead it off and get on, and then Will hit it hard. I was trying to get the guy in with two outs. The guys on the bench were a little colder today, but it was all right out there moving around."
What does it all mean?
That the Blue Devils are off to a good start in the big yard after beating a Northern team in the cold.
Stars of the game
1. O'Grady, with the game-winning hit and a run scored.
2. Walker, with three hits including a pair of doubles and two RBI.
3. Duke's Ben Grisz, with three scoreless relief innings allowing three hits with two strikeouts and a walk.
Play of the game
O'Grady's game-winning hit.
Duke leads 4-3.
Duke: Won 1.
Fordham: Lost 4.
Duke vs. Fordham, Saturday, 2 p.m.