Duke Series Preview

The college baseball season has just begun and yet, conference play is already here.

If the Hurricanes were looking for a series to ease them into ACC play, they got it with Duke coming into town for a three-game set.

Duke comes into this series with a 6-6 record. Taken at face value, that's not a bad record, but their results really aren't anything too impressive.

They took a game from Florida on opening night, but they went on to lose the next two. They lost a midweek game at Campbell, lost two out of three games to Towson and lost a midweek game to Penn. Just about the only thing they have to hang their hat on is a sweep of Bucknell.

It appears that, as has so often happened, Duke will again finish at or near the bottom of the ACC.

Over the last couple of years, Duke could at least boast one of the top pitchers in the entire nation in collegiate Team USA member Marcus Stroman, but that's not the case this year. But that's not to say that the Blue Devils haven't gotten pretty good starting pitching. Trent Swart, Duke'S Friday starter, has been particularly tough. In his three starts (18 IP), Swart has a 1.50 ERA and 18 strikeouts. Opposing hitters have a .159 average against him.

Drew Van Orden has performed like an ace as well. His ERA is a little higher (3.12), but hitters are managing just a .190 average off of him and he has more strikeouts (21) in 17.1 innings than Swart has in 18 innings.

Robert Huber has been a bit hittable, however. The batting average against him is .280 and he has an ERA of 4.61.

The bullpen has been solid. It's hard to know too much this early, but it looks like Andrew Istler is going to emerge as the Blue Devils closer. He has appeared in seven games so far and recorded two saves. Opposing batters are not having a lot of luck against him, as they are batting just .048. Four other pitchers with at least three appearances have ERAs of 4.50 or lower.

Offensively, Duke is a little uneven.

They are led by three hitters with averages over .300. In fact, they are led by one guy with an average over .400. Junior catcher Mike Rosenfeld is hitting .405 with six doubles and five RBI. Matt Berezo is second on the team with a .385 average. Jeff Kremer is hitting .308 with a .460 on-base percentage.

The batting averages drop precipitously from there (the next highest is .244), but Duke does boast some power.

Chris Marconcini is only hitting .231, but he has four home runs and 11 RBI. He's also adept at finding his way on base, as he has an on-base percentage of .362.

Jordan Betts has a similarly low average (.222), but he has two homers and eight RBI.

Duke might be among the favorites to finish last in the ACC, but they aren't going to be a walkover. They feature a couple of starters that are going to go right after Miami's hitters and they have a few bats to fear.

When it's all said and done, I expect the Canes to take two out of three. I think their pitchers are going to be smart about not letting the likes of Rosenfeld and Marconcini beat them. I also think the offense will find a way to get to the soft underbelly of the Duke bullpen beyond the first couple of guys and put up some runs.

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