GREENSBORO, N.C. -- It’s déjà vu all over again for Duke.
On Thursday, the Blue Devils faced a Georgia Tech team that had swept them earlier in the season – but that game resulted in a 6-0 Duke win that kept the team’s ACC and NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
On Saturday, the Devils will need to vanquish another opponent that beat them three times in the regular season – the Miami Hurricanes.
“We didn’t play particularly well in either one of those series,” said second baseman Andy Perez, who went 3-5 with a home run in Thursday’s win against Georgia Tech and recorded three hits in three at-bats earlier this season against Miami’s Saturday starter, Bryan Radziewski. “Knowing we were due for a win against both of those teams allowed us to come out of the gates swinging [against Georgia Tech] and hopefully we can do the same against Miami.”
“Yesterday was great – we really controlled the game from the outset,” added third baseman Jordan Betts, who, like Perez, touched up Radziewski for three hits less than two weeks ago. “The way Drew [Van Orden] threw, we didn’t really give them a chance to get anything going. We’d love to do the same thing tomorrow with Trent [Swart] on the mound.”
There will be a sense of familiarity in the ballpark on Saturday, as the Duke offense will face Radziewski, a Florida-native with “really good stuff” according to Duke head coach Chris Pollard, just 13 days after seeing him in Coral Gables, FL. In the previous meeting against the junior left-hander, Duke was able to generate plenty of baserunners, but struggled to bring them across home plate – ten hits and one walk resulted in only three runs.
“We had him on the ropes a couple of times,” said Pollard. “He’s a tremendous competitor. We had guys in scoring position all day long, we just didn’t come up with the hits.”
In the fourth meeting between the two programs since mid-May, Pollard knows his squad will need to be more opportunistic to knock off one of the nation’s best teams.
Having a better idea of Radziewski’s game plan will help.
“Once you see a guy’s breaking stuff and you see how he attacks you,” said Perez. “Most pitchers fall into patterns and you know what they like to do in certain counts.”
“It comes back to approach and discipline at the plate when you have guys in scoring position,” added Pollard. “Sometimes we try to do too much – trying to get the big hit instead of just getting a hit. When you have a runner at second, any hit works, not the big hit.”
Much remains unsettled about Duke’s future, in the ACC or NCAA Tournaments. As such, the Blue Devils are approaching Saturday’s game against the Hurricanes with the same sense of urgency it had against the Yellow Jackets.
“We knew yesterday was an elimination game – our season was at stake,” admitted Pollard, “whether it was our ACC Tournament lives or postseason play beyond the ACC Tournament. Our guys got together and said ‘hey, we don’t want this season to end.’ We want to keep playing – a lot of that was just will.
If Duke is able to knock off Miami, its season won't end - the Devils will have a date in the ACC Tournament Championship Game Sunday afternoon.