DURHAM, N.C. - Duke baseball opens the 2010 season at the QTI Apparel's Opening Weekend Classic this Friday through Sunday, Feb. 19-21, against NCAA Regional qualifiers Baylor and No. 22 Georgia in Waco, Texas.
Duke will take on Baylor twice at the tournament, beginning at 1 p.m. (CT) on Friday at Baylor Ballpark. The Blue Devils will face the Bears once again at 1 p.m. (CT) on Saturday as part of a double header that also includes a 5 p.m. (CT) showdown against the 22nd-ranked Bulldogs. Duke will conclude the tournament on Sunday at 10 a.m. (CT) against Georgia.
To view game notes for the weekend, click the following link:
Both of Duke's games against Baylor and the Sunday game against Georgia will air on the GoDuke.com Radio Network with play-by-play provided by Duke Director of Marketing Bart Smith. The broadcast is free of charge and is accessible on the baseball page at www.GoDuke.com. Baylor has also set up a tournament central homepage for the weekend at the following link:
The Blue Devils, coming off a 35-24 record in 2009 that included a 15-15 ACC mark, return five position starters, two weekend starting pitchers and three key relievers for 2010. Led by fifth-year head coach Sean McNally, Duke is coming off its second straight 30-win season that included series wins over No. 1 North Carolina and No. 7 Georgia Tech and an 8-10 record against top-25 teams.
A difficult schedule awaits the Blue Devils in 2010, beginning with the season-opening games at Baylor and against 22nd-ranked Georgia. Along with those two NCAA Regional qualifiers, Duke will face seven other squads who at least made it to the NCAA Regional, five of which made it to a Super Regional and two who advanced to the College World Series.
Duke has the firepower to make it back to the ACC Tournament, however, thanks to a roster that includes five returning position starters, two weekend starting pitchers and three key relievers. Providing the foundation of the batting order are senior Jeremy Gould, junior Jake Lemmerman and sophomore Will Piwnica-Worms, who combined to hit .315 in 2009.
Gould, who will take over starting duties at first base with the departure of All-ACC selection Nate Freiman, is Duke's active leader with a career .337 batting average, 176 hits, 37 doubles and a .474 slugging percentage. He has hit at least .340 in each of the last two seasons and also boasts a career .327 batting average in ACC play.
Lemmerman is coming off a strong finish to 2009 that saw him earn a spot on the ACC All-Tournament Team. The 6-2, 190 pound infielder is not only the top returning defensive shortstop in the ACC, but also one of Duke's top offensive threats. Lemmerman hit .316 over the final half of 2009, mashing six of his seven home runs during that span. He finished the year with 45 RBI, including a team-high 31 in his final 30 games. Piwnica-Worms, meanwhile, put together a .317 average as a freshman with 13 doubles, four triples and three home runs. He scored 37 runs while driving in 30.
Anchoring the pitching staff will be senior left-hander Christopher Manno, who returns for his third season as a weekend starter. Following Manno in the rotation will be southpaw Eric Pfisterer, who made seven starts as a freshman, including three ACC starts. Holding down the bullpen will be senior Michael Ness and juniors Dennis O'Grady and Ryan Knott.
Manno returned to Duke after being drafted as a junior by the Washington Nationals in 2009. After setting a school record with an average of 12.27 strikeouts per nine innings as a sophomore, he wrapped up his junior season by logging a 3.65 ERA and 43 strikeouts over his final 37 innings in 2009.
Ness, meanwhile, was one of the ACC's top relievers as a junior, posting a 2.44 ERA through a team-high 25 appearances. With a three-year track record that includes a 4.03 career ERA, an 8-6 record and six career saves, Ness may also see time as a starter or as Duke's closer.
Following the weekend trip to Waco, Texas, the Blue Devils return to Durham, N.C., for their home debut at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Feb. 26-28 against Fordham. That series will be three of the first 18 home games for Duke at the Triple-A ballpark, which is located in downtown Durham and is the home of the minor league affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Friday opener is slated for 3 p.m.