DURHAM, N.C. -- Three weeks out from opening day, the Duke baseball team held its first official practice of the spring Friday at Jack Coombs Field.
The Blue Devils return 22 letterwinners from this past season’s 30-28 squad, including all eight starting position players. Preseason All-American Griffin Conine (.298/.546/.425) and 2017 MLB Draft pick Jimmy Herron (.326/.474/.412) headline that group as both outfielders return for their junior seasons. Duke also returns starting center field Kennie Taylor (.314/.496/.383), second baseman Max Miller (.237/.299/.363), shortstop Zack Kone (.291/.359/.345), third baseman Jack Labosky (.275/.464/.399) and catcher Chris Proctor (.255/.309/.305).
On the mound, Duke returns 68 percent of its innings pitched from last season, led by seniors Mitch Stallings (4-3, 4.50 ERA, 73.2 IP) and Ryan Day (4-3, 3.30 ERA, 76.0 IP). Sophomore Adam Laskey (4-5, 6.83 ERA, 55.1 IP), sophomore Graeme Stinson (3-1, 6.67 ERA, 28.1 IP), senior Chris McGrath (1-2, 4.12 ERA, 24.0 IP), senior Jack Labosky (2-4, 4.50 ERA, 34.0 IP) and sophomore Matt Mervis (2-2, 7.83 ERA, 23.0 IP) all logged 20-plus innings for Duke a season ago.
In addition, Duke added 13 newcomers into the mix in freshmen Chris Crabtree, Thomas Girard, Matt Dockman, Wil Hoyle, Toma Shigaki-Than, Bryce Jarvis, Steve Mann, Joey Loperfido, Josh Nifong, Michael Rothenberg and Tyler Wardwell as well as graduate student transfers Ethan DeCaster (Creighton) and Sam Granoff (San Francisco).
With wins over then-No. 14 Clemson and No. 10 Virginia in the 2017 ACC Tournament, Duke secured 30 wins for the fourth straight season, marking the program’s first stretch of four-consecutive 30-win campaigns since the Blue Devils compiled a run of seven straight from 1992-98.
Duke, ranked nationaly in two presason polls, opens the 2018 campaign on the road at perenial power Vanderbil Feb. 16-18.