Trevor DeLaite of Bangor rose to the challenge on Friday during his first appearance in an NCAA baseball tournament game.
The left-hander worked 7 2/3 strong innings and received outstanding offensive support from his teammates as Liberty University beat 19th-ranked Duke in the first round of the NCAA Regional in Knoxville, Tennessee.
DeLaite, a graduate student transfer from the University of Maine, limited the Blue Devils to eight hits and four runs while pushing his season record to 12-1.
The former Bangor High School star struck out five, walked one and hit four batters while throwing 118 pitches before being lifted in the eighth inning.
DeLaite on Thursday was named one of seven finalists for the National Pitcher of the Year sponsored by Diamond and administered by the College Baseball Foundation. He previously was named the ASUN Conference Pitcher of the Year.
DeLaite was the beneficiary of relentless offensive contributions by the Flames (41-14), who tallied 12 hits including three home runs and three doubles.
Liberty takes on the winner of Friday night’s Tennessee-Wright State game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Lindsay Nelson Stadium. It is a double-elimination tournament.
Brady Gulakowski headed the onslaught, slamming a three-run home run in the third inning and belting another three-run shot in the fourth as the Flames surged to an 11-1 advantage.
Liberty staked DeLaite to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, then Duke got a run back on Peter Matt’s leadoff homer in the second. However, DeLaite allowed only a single run over the next five-plus innings as the Flames took command.
He finally appeared to tire in the later innings as his pitches were frequently up in the strike zone, but he departed with two outs in the eighth with Liberty holding an 11-4 lead.