DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke baseball team wrapped up the 2011 season last weekend after picking up a 2-0 shutout victory over No. 15 Miami in the final series of the year. The win featured a dominant effort from senior Dennis O'Grady, who in his last start allowed the Hurricanes just three hits over 7.2 innings in Duke’s fourth shutout of the year.
Duke (26-30, 7-23 ACC) had the youngest team in Division I baseball with 70 percent of its 27-man roster made up of freshmen and sophomores. The future is bright for the Blue Devils, who return all but one player – senior O’Grady – for next season. Included in that group are nine position starters and 12 pitchers.
The Blue Devils received significant contributions from a number of underclassmen, including sophomore catcher Jeff Kremer, freshmen third baseman Jordan Betts, shortstop Angelo LaBruna, first baseman Chris Marconcini and outfielder Anthony D'Alessandro. Each of those five started at least 47 games this season and, along with junior center fielder Will Piwnica-Worms, sophomore second baseman Marcus Stroman and freshman designated hitter David Perkins, will make up the core of Duke’s lineup in 2012.
Duke got a number of breakout performances this season. After appearing in just 10 games as a freshman in 2010, Kremer emerged as one of the ACC’s best hitters and led Duke with a .347 batting average, 69 hits, 40 walks and a .462 on base percentage. On the mound, Stroman built on a successful freshman season by logging a 2.80 ERA, a 3-4 record and four saves while ranking third nationally with 12.60 strikeouts per nine innings. O’Grady solidified his title as Duke’s most reliable starter and had the best year of his four-year career with a 6-3 record and 3.65 ERA while starting every weekend series.
In all, Duke returns 26 letterwinners for 2012, including 15 of this year’s freshmen, five sophomores and six juniors. While the Blue Devils will have a big hole to fill with the loss of O’Grady, several returning players have the ability to fill his shoes and will continue to develop in various collegiate summer leagues beginning in June.
Catcher and designated hitter Jeff Kremer broke out as a sophomore, leading Duke with a .347 batting average, 69 hits, 40 walks and a .462 on base percentage. The 5-10, 200-pound backstop finished fourth in the ACC in on base percentage, eighth in batting average, tied for seventh in walks and tied for 17th in total hits. His .462 on base percentage was the ninth-highest mark in school history.
Piwnica-Worms & Bebout Named Capitol One Academic All-District III
Junior Will Piwnica-Worms and sophomore Chase Bebout both appeared on the Capitol One Academic All-District III Team. Piwnica-Worms was the top defensive center fielder in the ACC, ranked fourth in the conference with 21 stolen bases and posted a 3.645 grade point average. It was the second straight year in which Piwnica-Worms earned the academic award. Bebout notched a 3.38 ERA and 49 strikeouts through 45.1 innings while holding opponents to a .228 batting average. He owns a 3.333 GPA.
Swing And Miss
Duke sophomore Marcus Stroman finished the regular season ranked third nationally with 12.60 strikeouts per nine innings. Only UCLA’s Trevor Bauer (13.27 K/9) and Virginia’s Danny Hultzen (13.06 K/9) – two potential top-10 picks in the upcoming MLB Draft – averaged more strikeouts than Stroman. Stroman logged 90 strikeouts in just 64.1 innings and also issued just 21 walks to lead Duke with a 4.29:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Sixty-five of his 90 strikeouts were swinging.
Baseball Scores Perfect 1000 APR
The baseball team was one of seven Duke programs that achieved perfect scores of 1000 on the annual Academic Progress Report (APR) released by the NCAA. The APR provides a real-time look at a team's academic success each semester by tracking the academic progress of each student-athlete on scholarship. The APR accounts for eligibility, retention and graduation and provides a measure of each team's academic performance for a particular academic year.
The 2011 Blue Devils had the youngest roster in the country with 15 freshmen on the 27-man roster, good for an NCAA-leading 56 percent of its roster made up of freshmen. Duke had just one senior, six juniors and five sophomores. Five of those freshmen worked their way into Duke’s starting lineup, as third baseman Jordan Betts and shortstop Angelo LaBruna started all 56 games, first baseman and outfielder Chris Marconcini started 55 games, outfielder Anthony D'Alessandro started 47 contests and David Perkins started 35 games. Also, Robert Huber, Drew Van Orden and Dillon Haviland all threw at least 45 innings, and Mark Lumpa tied for the team lead with 21 relief appearances.
Setting Up for the Future
Along with those 15 freshmen, Duke will bring back 26 of its 27 players in 2012. Included that group are nine position starters and 12 of the team’s 13 pitchers. Duke will return 92 percent of its RBI, 93 percent of its hits, 91 percent of its stolen bases and 83 percent of its innings for next season. The Blue Devils will lose only senior Dennis O'Grady, who was the team’s top starting pitcher with a 6-3 record and a 3.65 ERA through 86.1 innings.
Duke’s strikeouts per game average rose for the fifth straight year under pitching coach Sean Snedeker, posting a 7.70 K/9 mark this season. That average is Duke’s highest since 1999 and the fourth highest mark since 1958. Seven of Duke’s 13 pitchers averaged more than seven strikeouts per game, including sophomore Marcus Stroman who ranked third nationally with 12.60 strikeouts per nine.
Going Out With a Bang
Senior Dennis O'Grady had the best year of his four-year career in 2011, emerging as Duke’s top pitcher and the most versatile player in Duke’s lineup. O’Grady led Duke in wins (6-3) and innings pitched (86.1) while setting career bests in ERA (3.65), strikeouts (75) and opponent batting average (.275). He was especially good down the stretch when he held five of his last six opponents to two runs or less over five innings or more. The 5-10, 200-pound right-hander ended his career with a bang, shutting out No. 15 Miami over 7.2 innings as part of a combined 2-0 shutout in Coral Gables, Fla.
Doing It All
Along with his success on the mound, O’Grady was one of the most versatile players in Duke’s lineup and one of the team’s top hitters down the stretch. He finished with a .275 batting average, 20 RBI, 24 runs and a career-high eight stolen bases. He hit five of his seven doubles in Duke’s last 14 games and made just three errors all season.
Freshman Chris Marconcini was one of the top newcomers in the ACC and Duke’s top power threat. The 6-5, 200-pound outfielder and first baseman led Duke with 15 doubles, six triples and four home runs while also leading the team with 39 RBI and 41 runs scored. Also one of the fastest players on the team, Marconcini stole eight bases in 10 tries and became only the seventh player in Duke history to lead the team in runs, RBI and extra-base hits.
Freshman third baseman Jordan Betts and freshman shortstop Angelo LaBruna started all 56 games for Duke. They were the only two Blue Devils to start every game. The last freshman to start every game for Duke was center fielder Will Piwnica-Worms in 2009.
Freshman Jordan Betts had a team-high 14-game hitting streak this season, and classmates Matt Berezo, Anthony D'Alessandro and Chris Marconcini all had streaks of eight games.
Jordan Betts had the second highest fielding percentage of all ACC third baseman and the third most chances among that group. Betts made an impact at the position from day one, both defensively and offensively, and finished second on the team with 32 RBI. Among his 55 hits were 12 doubles, one triple and one home run, and he had the longest hitting streak of any Duke player with a 14-game tear within the first two months of the season.
Freshman Angelo LaBruna was the top defensive shortstop in the ACC, leading all conference shortstops with a .982 fielding clip. LaBruna made just four errors all season while fielding the third most chances. LaBruna committed just four errors in 226 tries and had errorless streaks of 24 games and 19 games. He made just one error over a span of 44 games from Feb. 25 through May 8.
Duke stole 84 bases in 2011 for the most by a Duke team since 1993 when the Blue Devils – led by current head coach and Duke alumnus Sean McNally – stole 85 bases. This year, Duke stole at a 77 percent success rate to mark the sixth straight year that Duke come up safe at least 70 percent of the time under McNally.
Running Wild, Part Two
Junior center fielder Will Piwnica-Worms led Duke with 21 stolen bases and was caught just twice all year. The 21 swipes were the most by a Duke player since 1995 and ranked fourth in the ACC. Piwnica-Worms had 17 steals entering his junior season and blew that mark away in 2011 while also compiling the fourth-highest stolen base success rate of any ACC player with at least 20 attempts. He currently ranks 12th all-time at Duke in stolen bases.
Freshman right-hander Mark Lumpa tied junior Ben Grisz with 21 relief appearances on the year and tied both Grisz and fellow freshman Drew Van Orden with 22 total appearances. Lumpa had the second best ERA of Duke’s relievers with a 4.00 mark, trailing only Marcus Stroman, who led the team with four saves and 90 strikeouts, but also made eight starts. Grisz topped 20 appearances for the second straight year while Van Orden logged 52.1 innings in which he went 3-6.
Freshman infielder Matt Berezo came on strong down the stretch for Duke, logging hits in eight of his final 10 games and putting together a string of 36 consecutive plate appearances without a strikeout. A switch-hitting second baseman, Berezo finished with a .286 batting average thanks to his late-season surge.
Duke has utilized several two-way players under head coach Sean McNally and used three of them regularly in 2011. Senior infielder Dennis O'Grady, junior outfielder Joe Pedevillano and sophomore infielder Marcus Stroman all contributed at the plate, on the mound and in the field for Duke this year. O’Grady and Stroman were Duke’s top two pitchers and combined for 35 RBI, 43 runs scored and 20 stolen bases while Pedevillano started 20 games in the outfield, hit .275 and stole seven bases while going 2-0 with a 4.05 ERA out of Duke’s bullpen.
Junior right-hander David Putman was one of Duke’s best pitchers in pressure situations and held opponents to a .192 batting average with runners on base. In his 35 times squaring off against hitters with at least one runner on base, Putman allowed only five hits while striking out 11 and walking just four. Putman, who underwent shoulder surgery midway through the 2010 season, struck out 12 batters in his eight innings and held opponents to a .200 batting average.