DURHAM, N.C. – Duke has a chance to climb back into the ACC Tournament race this weekend when Virginia Tech comes to Durham for a three-game series at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on April 29-May 1.
Duke (24-19, 7-14 ACC) trails both Virginia Tech and Wake Forest by three games, and will play both of those teams within the next three weekends. Duke and those two, along with Maryland and Boston College, are all within three games of each other for the eighth and final spot in the ACC Tournament field. The Hokies (24-19, 7-14 ACC) are currently tied with Wake Forest in the standings, but own the tiebreaker and would be the last team in the tournament if the season ended today.
The Blue Devils can move closer to that eighth spot with a sweep over Virginia Tech this weekend. With the upcoming series at Wake Forest and the regular season finale at Miami, Duke has nine ACC games left to make its final charge.
In the last home series on April 8-10, Duke took the series opener 10-6 from Boston College before the Eagles responded with a pair of two-run wins – including an 11-inning victory on Sunday – to clinch the series. The Blue Devils own a 5-5 record at Durham Bulls Athletic Park this season with a series win over NC State and single-game ACC victories over No. 6 Georgia Tech and Boston College.
Home field advantage has been a reality for the Duke offense this season, as the team batting average improves 36 points to .313 at the DBAP. Freshman shortstop Angelo LaBruna has been especially comfortable at the home of the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, sporting a team-high .395 batting average and a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage at the Downtown Durham venue. Classmate David Perkins also owns a .379 average at DBAP, while senior Dennis O'Grady (.364), junior Jeff Kremer (.324) and freshman Chris Marconcini (.316) are all hitting over .300 in the park.
Durham Bulls Athletic Park has also had a positive effect on Duke’s pitching staff, as starters Marcus Stroman and Chase Bebout and reliever Ben Grisz all own ERAs under 2.00 there. Stroman and Bebout have been nearly unhittable in their five combined starts there, teaming up for 1.29 ERA and 12.21 strikeouts per nine innings.
The Hokies bring their own momentum into the weekend, however, winning five straight games including a series sweep at Maryland last weekend. Virginia Tech has scored 49 runs in those five games.
Virginia Tech owns one of the most powerful offenses in the ACC with a league-leading 53 homers and the fourth-most runs scored. The ACC’s top two home run hitters are both Hokies in conference leader Andrew Rash, who has 14 bombs, and Tim Smalling, who ranks second with nine homers. Virginia Tech has homered in 15 of its last 17 games, and 12 Hokies have hit one out of the park this year, but they will have a difficult time doing that against a Duke pitching staff that has allowed the fewest long balls in the conference with just 12 in 44 games.