DURHAM, N.C. – After taking the reins of the Duke baseball program in June of 2012, first-year head coach Chris Pollard guided the Blue Devils to 26 wins in 2013, the most by a Duke head coach in his inaugural season in program history.
Duke’s sophomore and junior classes anchored the Blue Devil lineup, led by first baseman Chris Marconcini, second baseman Andy Perez, third baseman Jordan Betts, left fielder Mark Lumpa and center fielder Grant McCabe. Each of those five started at least 41 games and will make up the core of Duke’s lineup in 2014, along with catcher Mike Rosenfeld, who missed a majority of this past season due to injury, and shortstop Kenny Koplove.
The future is bright for the Blue Devils, who return all but four players – seniors Chase Bebout, Jeff Kremer, Al Morris and Ryan Munger – for next season. Included in that group are seven position starters and 14 pitchers.
In all, Duke (26-29, 9-21 ACC) returns 25-of-29 letterwinners for 2014, including five of this year’s freshmen, 12 sophomores and 11 juniors. While the Blue Devils will miss the contributions of the senior class, Duke is set to add 10 newcomers in 2014 while several returning players will continue to develop in various collegiate leagues across the country.
Start It Up
Sophomore second baseman Andy Perez enjoyed a breakout season which culminated in second team All-ACC honors after he led Duke with a .316 average, 67 hits, five triples and 18 stolen bases. A native of Roswell, Ga., Perez was the only ACC second baseman to rank in the top 15 in the conference in either hits or total bases (97). Duke’s first second baseman to earn All-ACC honors since Quinton McCracken in 1992, he was especially effective in ACC games, hitting .351 with six doubles, five triples and three home runs. Batting primarily from the leadoff spot, Perez had at least one hit in 23-of-30 league contests, including multiple hits in 16 ACC games.
Junior Jordan Betts also picked up second team All-ACC honors after leading the Blue Devils with 48 RBI and 18 doubles. At the end of the regular season, his 48 RBI - the most by a Blue Devil since Nate Freiman drove in 62 in 2009 - ranked tied for 12th in the ACC. The Wilmington, N.C., native registered at least one RBI in 30 games, including a streak of nine-straight contests from March 23 to April 5, and hit .333 with runners in scoring position. Batting mainly from the cleanup spot, Betts also tagged a career-high seven home runs on the way to 102 total bases, which tied for the most on the Duke roster.
After missing the 2012 season due to injury, redshirt sophomore Chris Marconcini returned to the Duke lineup in 2013, starting 54 games. Marconcini belted a team-best eight home runs, surpassing his total from the 2011 campaign. He also led the team in slugging percentage (.537) and total bases (102) in addition to stealing eight bases. The Brentwood, Tenn., native was one of just three players in the ACC with eight or more home runs and eight or more stolen bases, joining North Carolina’s Brian Holberton and Virginia Tech’s Mark Zagunis. Marconcini also provided solid defense at first base, posting a .994 fielding percentage over the course of the season.
After a slow start, junior left fielder Mark Lumpa emerged as one of Duke’s most consistent hitters over the second-half of the season. Through the first 21 games, Lumpa posted a .180 average and drew eight walks, good for a .305 on-base percentage. The Udhailiyah, Saudi Arabia, native turned it around during the second half, leading the team in batting average (.390), on-base percentage (.515), hits (32) and walks (18) over Duke’s final 25 games. For the season, Lumpa lead the Blue Devils in on-base percentage (.438) and ranked tied for second in batting average (.311).
Junior Jordan Betts had a team-high 12-game hit streak this season, while senior Jeff Kremer and junior Mark Lumpa also posted hitting streaks of 10 or more games during the 2013 campaign.
Junior third baseman Jordan Betts and senior right fielder Jeff Kremer started all 55 games for Duke, the only two Blue Devils to accomplish that feat in 2013. Betts has started all 164 games in his Duke career and ranked eighth nationally in consecutive starts.
Sophomore Grant McCabe started 43 games in center field for the Blue Devils. The Centiennial, Colo., native did not commit an error in 93 chances on the season and was the only Duke position player to post an unblemished 1.000 field percentage.
Sophomore right-hander Andrew Istler served as Duke’s closer and finished the season with eight saves to his credit. Istler’s eight saves were the most by a Blue Devil pitcher since Alex Hassan also recorded eight saves in 2009. He is one of just six Blue Devil pitchers to record eight or more saves in a single season since the stat was first recorded in 1969. In addition, Istler’s 11 career saves ranks tied for fourth in program history, and he is two saves shy of tying the Duke career record of 13 held by Hassan, Vaughn Schill and Mark Sikorski.
Senior Jeff Kremer finished his career on a high note after transitioning to the outfield for his final season. He started all 55 games in right field, totaling a team-high nine outfield assists on the year. Kremer led the Blue Devils in runs scored (42) and ranked second on the squad in both batting average (.311) and on-base percentage (.421). A native of Portland, Ore., he drew a team-high 31 walks and drove in a career-high 26 RBI. Kremer ended his time in Durham with a .314 career batting average and .426 on-base percentage. He ranks tied for 24th in the school record books in batting average and seventh all-time in on-base percentage.
Ace of the Staff
Sophomore Trent Swart was Duke’s most dependable pitcher, leading the Blue Devils in ERA (2.75), innings pitched (85.0) and strikeouts (71) while starting the series opener in 12-of-13 weekend series. Swart combined on three shutouts, starting all three, and allowed more than three runs just three times on the year. The Carlsbad, Calif., native went at least five innings in 12 of his 13 starts and permitted just 12 extra base hits, all doubles.
Junior Robert Huber threw back-to-back shutouts in 2013 and was one of just three ACC pitchers to toss two shutouts during the 2013 campaign, joining ACC Pitcher of the Year Kent Emmanuel of North Carolina and first team All-ACC selection Bryan Radziewski of Miami. Huber tossed Duke’s first complete game shutout since 2004, throwing nine scoreless frames in the Blue Devils’ 6-0 win over Boston College March 30. He then followed that performance with a series-clinching 3-0 win over then-No. 15 Georgia Tech the following Sunday. Against the Yellow Jackets, he scattered five hits and struck out seven batters while walking just one. Huber picked up ACC Pitcher of the Week honors after his performance against Georgia Tech. For the season, he appeared in 16 games, starting 13 with a 4.85 ERA.
Duke’s 2013 roster featured five freshmen who all saw playing time during the season. Leading the way was Kenny Koplove, who started 45 games at shortstop and hit .288 with seven doubles and 23 RBI on the season. Three freshmen pitchers saw significant time on the mound in Nick Hendrix, James Marvel and Michael Matuella. Duke’s three freshman pitchers tossed at least 38 frames each as the trio combined for an 8-6 record with a 4.05 ERA over 137.2 innings of work.