Olivia Hyde | Clarion

An intense battle between (1/1) DU men’s lacrosse and the (14/15) Duke University Blue Devils peaked late in the fourth quarter as junior captain and faceoff specialist Trevor Baptiste (Denville, New Jersey) netted the game-winner, sparking a Denver run to secure the 14-9 victory on Feb. 18. Hosting Duke for the first time since 2012, the Pioneers improved their record to 2-0 with the win on the warm Saturday afternoon.

Baptiste concluded the afternoon winning 17-of-25 faceoffs at the X and picking up nine ground balls.

“We have one of the best faceoff guys in the country,” senior attack and captain Connor Cannizzaro (Cazenovia, New York) said. “Any time he gets on a roll it’s a special thing, and it gets our whole team going.”

With the game tied 8-8 with 9:01 remaining, Baptiste captured six consecutive faceoffs, igniting a three-goal Denver run. Goals from sophomore Colton Jackson (Highlands Ranch, Colorado), Baptiste and Connor Flynn (Charlotte, North Carolina) grasped the lead for the Pioneers 11-8 with 6:09 remaining.

“I think the whole team just stepped up at that point in the game,” Baptiste said. “We kept the morale high, we went on runs and stayed at that top level.”

The Blue Devils scored their ninth goal with 3:12 on the clock before Denver silenced Duke’s attack. Cannizzaro scored twice in the final 1:10 and assisted on freshman attackman Ethan Walker’s (Peterborough, Ontario) maker with 30 seconds left.

“We didn’t want to take our foot off the pedal and give them any life,” Cannizzaro said. “We just tried to keep it going, and it worked out in the end.”

2016 Tewaaraton Finalist Cannizzaro led Denver’s offense with six points (4G – 2A) and recorded his 200th point, the third player in Pioneer history to do so. Walker registered his second-career hat trick and drew one helper. Sophomore attackman Austin French (Danville, California) collected three assists. Freshman midfielder Danny Logan (Upper Arlington, Ohio) scored his first-career goal.

Sophomore goalie Alex Ready (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) secured eight saves. Denver’s defense performed perfectly on its clearing game, executing 17-of-17.

The Pioneers punished Duke’s four turnovers in the opening frame, taking a 2-0 lead. The Blue Devils countered in the second quarter with four goals, but the Pioneers added three goals of their own to take a 5-4 advantage heading into the locker room at halftime.

“As I told the guys in the locker room, especially the young guys who committed and wanted to play Division I lacrosse: that was a Division I lacrosse game,” Head Coach Bill Tierney said. “That was the real deal. Duke is going to be there at the end. We had a bunch of young guys who grew up today.”

Denver continues its six-game homestand next Saturday, Feb. 25 against Cleveland State, including Head Coach Dylan Sheridan who was a former assistant coach under coach Tierney. Faceoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.