DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke baseball team will look to reclaim a spot among the top of the conference standings this weekend as the Blue Devils head north to take on Boston College in a three-game series in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Game two of the series will be televised on Fox Sports Network from Campanelli Stadium in
Duke has balanced one of the best defensive units in the nation with a solid pitching staff and a versatile offense on the way to a 21-7 record in 2008 that includes four wins over top-25 opponents. At 21-7, Duke is on pace to top last season’s mark of 29-25 with the opportunity to reach 30 victories for the first time this decade.
With a collective fielding percentage of .977, Duke ranks sixth nationally in the category while leading the ACC in assists, putouts and fielding chances and committing the second-fewest errors among all ACC teams. Freshman shortstop Jake Lemmerman and sophomore second baseman Gabriel Saade form one of the most talented middle infield combinations in the conference, with Lemmerman leading the ACC with 89 assists and Saade emerging as one of the top offensive second baseman in the ACC. Duke’s starting outfield trio of Alex Hassan, Jeremy Gould and Tim Sherlock combine for just one error between them, while catcher Matt Williams has kept teams honest on the base paths by gunning down 10 runners trying to steal. Williams has made just one error behind the plate to match third baseman Ryan McCurdy, who has also made just one fault at the hot corner. McCurdy owns one of the most sure-handed gloves in the conference and has made just one error in his last 91 chances, dating back to his freshman season in 2007.
Duke’s pitching staff is statistically one of the most effective units in the nation, as the group ranks 11th in the country with a 3.14 ERA and 16th with a miniscule 2.79 walks allowed per game. While Blue Devil pitchers have benefited from the team’s defensive ability, they have also done their part in keeping runners off the bases, surrendering just 78 walks through 252.0 innings on the mound while averaging just 8.86 hits allowed per game for the 52nd-lowest average in the country.
Junior right hander Andrew Wolcott (2-1) has consistently provided solid Friday starts for the Blue Devils, as the 6-6, 240 pound right hander has put together a 3.31 ERA while exiting with the lead in four of his six starts. He was especially impressive in his last outing against Miami after rebounding from a four-run first inning to hold the second-ranked Hurricanes to just four hits and one run over his next six innings, giving Duke the chance to come back from a 5-0 deficit and force extra innings. Freshman Grant Monroe (4-1) has contributed solid weekend starts, as the 6-4, 200 pound right hander leads the team in wins, two of which have come in consecutive starts against top-25 opponents. With a 3.46 ERA, Monroe has buckled down when Duke needs him most, giving up just nine hits with runners on base to hold opposing hitters to a .214 average in scoring opportunities.
Even more impressive than the performance of Duke’s starters is the consistent success found by the Blue Devil bullpen. Though the unit suffered its first loss of the season in an extra-inning loss to
Offensively, Duke is led by outfielders Hassan and Gould, who are each batting over .390 with more than 20 runs and 20 RBI apiece. Hassan ranks among the ACC leaders with 33 runs, while Gould is the team leader with 27 RBI. The sophomore duo has helped Duke put together a .296 average and more than 200 runs as the Blue Devils have outscored their opponents by 91 runs on the season.
Saade has also provided a spark in the middle of the lineup, as the 5-11, 180 pound second baseman leads the team with 14 extra base hits, including four home runs. Since being moved from the leadoff spot to the middle of the batting order, Saade has banged out a .367 average with a team-leading 10 RBI and a pair of stolen bases.
Scouting the Eagles
Boston College (13-14, 2-10 ACC) comes into the weekend off a pair of mid-week victories over Northeastern and Connecticut.
The Eagles boast one of the most powerful lineups in the ACC, as 12 players have contributed to the team’s 37 total home runs. Catcher Tony Sanchez is one of the top offensive catchers in the conference, as the sophomore backstop is tied for the team lead with six bombs and 25 RBI along with a team-high .358 batting average.
Leadoff man Barry Butera has done much more than just get on base, mashing 14 extra base hits on the way to 28 runs and a .591 slugging percentage. He has set the table for Sanchez, Eric Campbell and Mickey Wiswall, who have made for a very productive 3-4-5 combo for the Eagles.
Boston College’s weak point has been pitching, as the group has allowed opposing teams to rake a .313 average against the Eagles. The group’s success has been hampered by 129 walks (4.7 per game) and shaky starting pitching, as none of Boston College’s three weekend starters claim an ERA under 5.40. Dan Houston has been the most effective of the group, putting together a 5.40 ERA and a 1-1 record, while James MacDonald and Terry Doyle combine for a 2-7 ledger.
The Series Against Boston College
Duke trails Boston College 2-5-0 in the all-time series after dropping three games in the ACC opener last season. Duke’s two wins over Boston College came in 2006 when the Blue Devils took two of three from the Eagles to win the series. With just seven all-time meetings, Duke has played Boston College fewer times than any ACC opponent.
On Deck For The Blue Devils
Following the road series, Duke will host UNC Greensboro on Wednesday, April 9 at Jack Coombs Field in the Blue Devils’ only mid-week matchup before a three-game road series at