The Duke baseball team begins their postseason on Wednesday with a pair of pool play games at the 2021 ACC Baseball Championship in Charlotte
The start may have been bumpy but the Blue Devils finished the regular season 28-20 (16-17) and a 9th seed. The Blue Devils enter the postseason on an eight-game winning streak and have won 10 of their last 12 games and peaking at just the right time.
“I think we are playing the best we have played all year over the last eight games and I wish I could tell you with some certainty as to why we started to play so well over the last eight games,” said Duke head coach Chris Pollard. “If I knew what it was we would’ve started it two months ago but I think our guys have stayed in a fight and as they’ve done that they’ve developed some confidence here down the stretch.”
Whatever “it” is the team is playing looser and more relaxed on the field and at the plate. They’re going to need that style and a few breaks as they have been put in arguably the toughest pool along with Florida State and Miami.
“We have a Florida state team that hits the ball out of the ballpark unlike anybody else in our league and a Miami team that is loaded full of power arms and high draft pick left-handed hitters,” said coach Pollard. “It’s a tough match up but we are excited to be a part of the event and look forward to going down there and hopefully continuing the good baseball we’ve played over the last few weeks.”
It’s the fourth consecutive season and sixth time under head coach Chris Pollard Duke will appear in the ACC Championship. Through a quirk in the COVID scheduling the Blue Devils opening game with Florida State will be the first time they face the Seminoles this year. The last time Duke faced Miami was roughly two months ago. The Hurricanes swept the Blue Devils in 3 games. SInce that series however Duke has gone 17-7 making major changes with numerous players stepping up. Coach is hoping the night and day difference in his team since then will be an advantage.
“There is some advantage to the fact that teams haven’t seen us since we’ve started playing well,” said coach Pollard. “Jack Carey is throwing the ball a lot different and better since we played Miami. Luke Fox has really emerged for us as a key piece and was playing a smaller role back when we played those guys and of course Florida State neither one of us have seen each other to this point in the year so I do think our team is different and better.”
Some teams are built for the grind of a long season. Others are better in a short series setting like the ACC Championship. Luckily for Duke the Blue Devils are more of the latter. While some teams are just now getting used to this high pressure format the Blue Devils have been in this mode for some time.
“Since we started back up after the exam break really every game has been an elimination game for us relative to at-large consideration for the NCAA tournament and also really in a lot of ways every ACC game was an elimination game up through Virginia Tech just trying to make the ACC tournament,” said coach Pollard. “We’ve had our backs against the wall now for several weeks and performed well in that environment and that’s the kind of environment that we’re going to be in down in Charlotte.”
Duke ranks No. 27 in the RPI while also boasting the No. 1 nonconference RPI in the nation. First pitch against Florida State is set for 11 am at Truist Park, home of the Charlotte Knights, in Charlotte, N.C.