Duke baseball prepares for regional action
Can Devils hit reset button?
Duke’s baseball team will open 2023 NCAA Tournament play Friday in Conway, South Carolina as the second seed in the regional hosted by top-seed Coastal Carolina. Duke will play UNC-Wilmington at 1 P.M. Coastal will play fourth-seed Rider later in the day.
This is Chris Pollard’s fifth trip to the NCAAs at Duke. Prior to Pollard’s arrival at Duke in 2013 Duke had played in five NCAA Tournaments.
I know, I know, this isn’t an apples to oranges comparison. A lot more teams make the tournament now then during the Jack Coombs era. And the NCAA Tournament didn’t even start until 1947, which rules out many of Coombs’ best teams. Coombs had a six-year run in the 1930s in which Duke went 124-21.
That’s why the man has a stadium named after him.
But Coombs is to Duke baseball what Wallace Wade is to Duke football; a venerable icon but also ancient history.
Duke made the 1961 College World Series, that team coached by Ace Parker. After that season Duke went two generations without an NCAA invite and had a winning ACC mark only two times until Pollard took over, 1963 and 1994. Three years after going to Omaha in 1961 Duke was 0-12 in the ACC, 4-21 overall. Duke had four consecutive one-win ACC seasons in the 1970s and was 2-21 in the ACC as recently as 2003.
In other words, let’s not take this for granted.
Back to Conway. All of the NCAA projections I had seen in the last week or so had Duke as a two seed in a regional hosted by an SEC team, maybe Auburn, maybe Vanderbilt, maybe South Carolina.
Well, they got the seed right. If you follow college baseball you know that the SEC is the bully on the beach, kicking sand in your face and taking your lunch money.
So, maybe Coastal Carolina is a break. But Coastal is 14th in the RPI and won the whole thing in 2016. Coastal is 18th in the NCAA with a .310 batting average, 22nd in home runs with 100.
But they went 3-4 against the ACC and didn’t make the title game in the Sun Belt Tournament.
Duke is 25th in the RPI, UNC-W 39th and Rider 99th.
Let’s not overlook the Seahawks. They beat Duke in the Columbia Regional in 2016. Take them lightly and Duke will be playing in the loser’s bracket Saturday.
Still, they went 0-6 against ACC schools, including an 18-2 loss to North Carolina on April 25. Their team ERA is 5.58 and that’s against a mostly mid-major schedule.
Rider split a pair of one-run games at Coombs earlier this month. They are nobody’s pushover.
Duke went 4-8 in May and enters the NCAAs on a four-game losing streak. Remember, just a month ago Duke was in the mix for a top-eight national seed.
Is there hope for a reset?
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial