DURHAM, N.C. – Duke will face its fifth ranked ACC team of the season this weekend in a three-game series in Tallahassee, Fla., against 10th-ranked Florida State on April 22-24.
The trip to Tallahassee will be Duke’s first since 2006. The Blue Devils and Seminoles took a two-year break from the series in 2008 and 2009 and renewed the rivalry in Cary, N.C., last season. Florida State (28-10, 11-7 ACC) won last year’s series two games to one, though the Blue Devils took a game from the Seminoles for the second straight series.
In last year’s meetings, Florida State – ranked sixth nationally at the time – won the opener 16-3, but Duke bounced back for a 10-6 win in game two. Junior Brian Litwin had the best game of his career that day with three RBI, three runs, three hits and two stolen bases and finished hitting .455 for the series. Marcus Stroman, then a freshman, also went 3-for-5 with two runs in the game-two victory and then threw three scoreless innings to earn the win.
Florida State will be the fifth ranked team Duke (20-20, 4-14 ACC) has faced in the last six weekends. The Blue Devils are currently in a tight battle with four other teams for the eighth spot in the ACC standings and trail Boston College by 2.5 games and Wake Forest by two games. With a series win this weekend, Duke would improve its chances of making the eight-team field for the ACC Tournament, which will be played on Duke’s home field at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The Blue Devils will have to use their team speed, sound defense and clutch hitting to get past Florida State. Duke leads the ACC in stolen bases, and the Blue Devils have stepped up defensively in April with just seven errors in their past 13 games. A big key to that improvement is the consistent play of freshman shortstop Angelo LaBruna, who leads all ACC shortstops with a .988 fielding percentage. LaBruna has made just two errors all year and has also come through time and time again at the plate with 23 RBI, which ties for the second most on the team.
LaBruna is one of four Duke freshmen who lead the team in RBI. Freshman first baseman and outfielder Chris Marconcini has driven in a team-high 32 runs while classmates LaBruna, Anthony D'Alessandro and Jordan Betts have all driven in 23 runs to tie the second most.
Duke will also switch its weekend rotation against the Seminoles, sending senior right-hander Dennis O'Grady to the mound on Friday for his 20th consecutive weekend start. Stroman will follow on Saturday, and Sunday’s starter has not been determined.
Following the three-game series, Duke will take on Davidson in Davidson, N.C., on Wednesday, April 27. Duke will then welcome Virginia Tech to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on April 29-May 1 in the first of Duke’s final two home series at the Triple-A ballpark.