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Opponent Preview: Duke

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Meet the Blue Devils... They’re having themselves a year!

Syracuse v Duke Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Duke

Mascot: Blue Devils | School Location: Durham, NC | Conference: ACC

2018 Record: 30-8 (12-5, 1st Coastal) | 2018 RPI Rank: 21

2017 Record: 30-28 (12-18, 4th Coastal) | 2017 RPI Rank: 91

2016 Record: 33-24 (14-15, 3rd Coastal) | 2016 RPI Rank: 30


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Jack Coombs Field, Durham, NC

Game Time(s): Friday, Apr 20 @ 6:00pm | Saturday, Apr 21 @ 1:00pm | Sunday, Apr 22 @ 1:00pm

TV: ACC Network Extra (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)

Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh

Live Stats: Duke Sports Stats Doohickey (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)


Tell me about this team

Duke is having easily their best season in recent memory, at least since the 1990’s. The question isn’t whether or not this team will make the NCAA Tournament (they will), the question is just how good they really are. This Blue Devils team has beat up on a poor schedule that ranks 117th in Strength of Schedule, including a weak 187th ranked SOS in out-of-conference play. Now, I’m not here to throw stones from within the glass house that is NC State’s 158th ranked OOC SOS, but Duke has feasted on a poor conference schedule to date that features only one ACC opponent ranked in the RPI Top 50 (for reference, 7-of-14 ACC teams are ranked in the RPI Top 50; four in the Atlantic Division, three in the Coastal).

Against Top 50 RPI teams this season, Duke is 3-3, but has been outscored in those games by a total of 22-37, including a 9-2 loss to RPI #7 East Carolina this past Tuesday. The Blue Devils are 17-0 against teams ranked outside of the RPI Top 100. Kudos to them for taking care of business when they should - that is, after all, a pretty key aspect of a great team - but the point remains that this Duke squad is largely untested to date. They’ll have an opportunity to prove the mettle starting with this series against RPI #15 NC State, and with series against RPI #11 UNC-Chapel Hill and RPI #40 Georgia Tech to go.

As for the team itself, the Blue Devils are getting it done with good-but-not-great starting pitching, a phenomenal and deep bullpen, and an offense that does just enough to get the job done without being explosive. That’s not to downplay the offense, they can be dangerous, but this team is built around getting an early lead and having the bullpen shut it down after the game’s midpoint.

Key Players:

Offense

1B Joey Loperfido (FR) - .328 BA, .424 OBP, .544 SLG, 125 AB, 8 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 27 R, 28 RBI, 20 BB, 34 K, 8-12 SB. Loperfido is hitting well, although he’s cooled off a bit as of late. The lefty hitter can stroke it, though.

C Chris Proctor (JR) - .298 BA, .400 OBP, .427 SLG, 131 AB, 5 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 24 R, 26 RBI, 20 BB, 33 K, 10-11 SB. Another lefty hitter, Proctor has been productive at the plate in each of his three seasons in Durham. His ability to throw out base runners will be what holds him back from getting selected higher in this year’s MLB Draft.

OF Jimmy Herron (JR) - .296 BA, .425 OBP, .430 SLG, 142 AB, 11 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 40 R, 15 RBI, 27 BB, 18 K, 15-16 SB. This dude can flat out play. As a draft-eligible true sophomore a year ago, he was a 31st round selection by the Yankees. Was a Freshman All-American in 2016. I’d put money down that he’s a Top 10 round draft pick in June, if not higher than that.

SS Zach Kone (JR) - .289 BA, .360 OBP, .447 SLG, 152 AB, 9 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 29 R, 25 RBI, 14 BB, 24 K, 5-5 SB. Kone has gotten better every year at Duke, and he has some skills that project to the next level. Like Herron, some team is going to fall in love with him and his projectability and grab him early.

OF Griffin Conine (JR) - .211 BA, .344 OBP, .436 SLG, 133 AB, 7 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 23 R, 24 RBI, 24 BB, 45 K, 0-1 SB. I know what you’re probably thinking. With that line, why would this guy get previewed as a key player? Well, Conine is currently riled in a season-long funk, but he slashed .298/.425/.546 a year ago with 11 2B, 13 HR, and 9 SB. He can hit, he just hasn’t done much of it this year.

Pitching

LHP Adam Laskey (SO) - 6-2, 3.81 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, .238 OBA, 52.0 IP, 46 H, 25 R, 22 ER, 22 BB, 46 K. The San Francisco Giants’ 31st round selection in the 2016 MLB Draft, Laskey was not very good a year ago as a freshman, but has been the team’s ace this year - well, aside from getting plastered by Wake Forest.

LHP Mitch Stallings (SR) - 3-2, 4.71 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, .253 OBA, 49.2 IP, 45 H, 28 R, 26 ER, 28 BB, 59 K. The senior has been a Duke seemingly forever. A starter over the last two years, he’s good enough to not lose you games, but not good enough to really go out and win them for you. Still, the lefty is solid and will keep the Blue Devils in every game he pitches.

RHP Jack Labosky (SR) - 2-0, 6 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, .190 OBA, 18.0 IP, 11 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 K. The Blue Devil’s closer hasn’t allowed an extra-base hit all year. Also the team’s starting third baseman, although he projects more as a reliever at the next level. Was a very highly rated 3B prospect entering his junior year, but has fallen off since.

RHP Ethan DeCaster (SR) - 3-0, 5 SV, 0.32 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, .168 OBA, 28.1 IP, 17 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 33 K. Graduate transfer from Creighton, where he had a sub-2.00 ERA with 5 SV last year. Throws from a kinda funky arm slot that makes it difficult for hitters to pick up the ball. He’s not technically the team’s closer, but he’s Closer 1B.

LHP Matt Dockman (FR) - 0-0, 0 SV, 0.98 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, .266 OBA, 18.1 IP, 17 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 15 K. Dockman is having himself a nice little debut in Durham. He’s not going to blow it by anyone, but he locates well from his 3/4 delivery slot and does a pretty good job with a consistent delivery through all his pitches.

LHP Bill Chillari (SO) - 5-1, 0 SV, 2.33 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, .189 OBA, 27.0 IP, 18 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 7 BB, 30 K. Started the midweek tilt against East Carolina, suffering his first loss of the year by allowing 2 ER over 4.0 IP on 65 pitches. He’s been Duke’s midweek starter the last three weeks, but I’d expect to see him in relief at some point this weekend, possibly even starting Sunday’s game..

LHP Graeme Stinson (SO) - 3-1, 0 SV, 2.59 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, .198 OBA, 31.1 IP, 22 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 14 BB, 52 K. The 6’5, 250 lbs lefty is legit with 97 career Ks over 59.2 IP. This guy is scary good. He did get touched for 2 ER over 2.2 IP against ECU, but he wasn’t hit overly hard and he struck out 5 during that span. The kid can pitch and worries me more than any of their other relievers.

RHP Bryce Jarvis (FR) - 2-0, 0 SV, 3.04 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .152 OBA, 26.2 IP, 14 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 14 BB, 39 K. Another Duke reliever who got touched up a bit this week by the Pirates (3 R, 2 ER in 1.1 IP). I only bring this up because I believe ECU and State will be the best two offensive teams that Duke will have faced this year, so it’s an apt comparison. The freshman will touch the low 90’s and has a good change-up.

RHP Matt Mervis (SO) - 3-0, 0 SV, 4.50 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .184 OBA, 22.0 IP, 14 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 9 BB, 19 K. Was a 39th round selection by the Nationals in the 2016 MLB Draft. The 6’4 righty pumps a fastball in the 90s. Was actually more highly regarded as a corner infielder coming out of high school, but has almost exclusively pitched for Duke.


Quick! Fun Facts!

NC State leads the all-time series with Duke 154-128-1.

Eh... does anyone even care about these facts anymore?


Prediction

Oddly enough, even though facing two experienced and solid lefty starters with a bullpen backing them that is a force, not to mention having some rotation issues of its own, I still like State’s chances of a series sweep better this weekend than any since the Boston College series. Am I brave enough to actually predict a sweep, though? No chance in hell.

State takes 2-of-3 from Duke to keep the gravy train rolling.