Updated: Dec 28, 2019
We're taking a look back and a look ahead at college baseball teams from around the country. Next up are the Duke Blue Devils!
“I’ve said ever since I’ve got here, and I feel even more strongly about it now than I did then. For us, getting to the College World Series is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
-Duke Baseball Head Coach Chris Pollard
A Look Back at 2019
From 1962 to 2015, Duke suffered from an NCAA Tournament appearance drought. In 2013 Pollard took over as head coach and quickly changed the direction of the program.
After returning to the NCAA Tournament in 2016 for the first time in over five decades and earning a Super Regional appearance in 2018, the Blue Devils entered 2019 looking to ride that momentum back to the postseason.
A 35-27 (15-15) record earned the Blue Devils the three seed in the Morgantown Regional. Duke swept through the Regional in convincing fashion, defeating Texas A&M twice and blanking host, West Virginia, en route to the Super Regional where they matched up with Vanderbilt.
After dominating game one of the series, Duke ran up against Vanderbilt phenom, P Kumar Rocker, in game two and would go on to lose the series in three games. In spite of this, 2019 was a successful for the Blue Devils who have officially returned to national relevance for the first time since the 1960s.
On top of their team successes, Duke also saw individual success with SS Ethan Murray who was tabbed as a Freshman All-American by several sources. Murray led the Blue Devils in on-base percentage (.391) and was second on the team in several other offensive categories including batting average (.305), RBI (40), and runs (48).
A Look Ahead at 2020
Expectations are high in Durham as the team returns most of its corps from a year ago. With seven of the nine players from Duke’s starting lineup and 72% of innings pitched returning, Duke will be bringing back a squad with talent and experience. Pollard is especially excited for the return of P Bryce Jarvis: “[He] looks like a bona fide Friday night stud. Candidly, he looks like a first rounder.”
The Blue Devils will kick off the year on an eight-game homestand (including weekend series against Army and Cornell) before heading to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Duke will then return home for a ten-game homestand and the start of ACC play. The Blue Devils will be tested early as they face off against Florida State and North Carolina. Wins in these series could set the tone for an extremely successful 2020 campaign.
April will offer Duke its longest road stretch of the season (seven straight games) when the Blue Devils will take on NC State, ECU, and Virginia Tech. Duke also finishes the season on the road for seven of its last eight games, which could prove crucial in determining NCAA Tournament seeding.
John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: Duke will make a Super Regional and is a legitimate contender for Omaha.
The pieces are there for Duke in 2020. The team is returning most of their key contributors including three of their four starting pitchers from last year and their most important bullpen guys. Duke went 4-2 in the NCAA Tournament last year, beating several ranked teams (West Virginia, Vanderbilt, and Texas A&M x2), and the Blue Devils were just one game away from Omaha. Pollard has his team trending in the right direction, and I expect them to have a legitimate shot at hosting a Regional and advancing deep in the NCAA Tournament.
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