DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Rain pelted down on the Duke baseball squad when the Blue Devils practiced for the first time this season.
But a drizzly day at Coombs Field was not about to dampen their spirit. Despite winning the ACC title a year ago, the season as a whole took its toll on the players.
“You compare where we are this time this year to where we were this time last season, it’s a very different feeling,” said Duke head coach Chris Pollard.
A year ago the players could not gather together in the same house. There was little interaction, team meetings were virtual as were classes.
You don’t just roll the ball onto the field and play. Successful baseball teams have a certain bond that can only be built through player interaction.
“It’s one of the most important things, especially with college baseball,” said senior RJ Schreck of the importance of team cohesiveness. “If you can’t trust somebody playing around you, if you’re not used to them you don’t know exactly what they can do or what they’re about.
“It’s hard to get behind somebody and have the ultimate trust in each other to be the best team you can be.”
Even so, Duke still had an outstanding season a year ago. The ACC title was the school’s first since 1961 as the Devils made their third straight NCAA Championship appearance.
And while the program is at a level never seen before, this team still feels there is unfinished business at hand.
“There’s easy motivation, right, because we still haven’t accomplished the goal of getting to Omaha,” said Pollard. “We continue to be close but still have not pushed through that door.
“We still haven’t gotten to where we want to go.”
It’s not easy to get to the College World Series. Only eight teams make it each season. But over the past few years, Duke has been right there in the mix.
Maybe a full campaign of bonding will help push them through that door.