Duke season likely done despite impressive run
Posted May 24
Greensboro, N.C. — Make no mistake, Duke baseball had a year to remember. It was the kind of year that can help turn a long-beaten program around.
For starters, Duke (33-25) made the ACC tournament for the first time since 2009. With 16 conference wins, the Blue Devils finished over .500 in ACC play for the first time since 1994. And as of 3 p.m. Saturday, they were just one pitch from making the ACC championship game for the first time ever.
“You know, I guess if I’m honest with you, this group of guys really expected this,” said second year head coach Chris Pollard. “I don’t know how any people outside of our team expected us to do this, but we’ve talked about this and pointed towards it and felt like to be where we were was a realistic step.”
But even with all that growth, the Duke resume might not be stout enough to get them in the field of 64 next week.
Yes, Duke was the No. 4 seed in the ACC tournament, but Duke is the 10th highest ranked ACC team in the national RPI. They sit in the mid-80’s with a strength of schedule hovering in the mid-70’s. In fact, they are only the seventh highest ranked team out of North Carolina in the RPI.
Duke does not reside in the top 25/30 of any national poll. They were also swept three times in conference series’.
After a heart-breaking 6-5 loss in 12 innings Saturday to Miami in the ACC tournament, Pollard hinted that the run might be over, but also added that given the opportunity, Duke would not be a push-over.
“I think that obviously we’ve been talked about being on the “bubble” for a while now,” Pollard said. “I think we came down here and played tough. I think we have showed that we can play with anybody in the country. The decision is out of our hands. I do know this, if we do get in, we’re a team that nobody wants to play, because we pitch, we play defense, we play tough, we play for the last out.
“If we do get in, we’re going to be tough in a regional, that’s for sure. We’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best and we’ll be ready to play when we’re selected.”
The key word there is “when”. He said “When we’re selected.”
While it does appear that that is a longshot for Duke, the first step is just being ready. Look at the NC State basketball team this year that was written off. They snuck in and posted a win before falling in OT in the second round of the NCAA tourney.
In watching Duke, they have clear holes that have held them back. They are not strong offensively – especially at the bottom of the order. They are good, not great, in the pen. Their defense up the middle is solid, but their defense on the corners is mediocre at best.
Duke is now as healthy as they have been all year, but is that enough to make the committee see past their faults?
“When you’ve struggled for a long time, sometimes the hard part is getting over the hump. These guys were tough enough to fight to get over the hump and they battled through adversity early, they had injuries, kept fighting and, again, I couldn’t be more proud of our seniors.”
Whether this is the year or not for Duke to break a 53-year NCAA tournament drought, Pollard has the team going in the right direction.