DURHAM, N.C. – The 2018 Blue Devils enter the record books as one of the best teams in program history after a remarkable run culminating in the program’s first NCAA Super Regional appearance.
Ranked in the preseason for the first time in program history, Duke lived up to the early season hype, setting the school record with 45 wins while also earning a school-record 18 ACC victories. The Blue Devils entered the national rankings March 12 and never left, finishing the year as a consensus top 20 team: Baseball America (No. 10), Collegiate Baseball (No. 11), D1Baseball (No. 17), Perfect Game (No. 14) and NCBWA (No. 9).
To put Duke’s season in perspective, Baseball America ranked Duke in its top 25 for 18 weeks, tripling the total numbers of weeks the Blue Devils were ranked in the first 36 years of the publication’s poll (6). Not only did the Blue Devils set the program record for wins in a season, but they also notched the first 40-win season in program history and notched 30 wins for the fifth-straight year, the program’s longest such stretch since Duke compiled a run of seven-straight 30-win campaigns from 1992-98.
After Duke did not make the NCAA Tournament for 55 consecutive years, head coach Chris Pollard has led the Blue Devils to the postseason event in two of the past three seasons. Five of Duke’s 15 30-win seasons in program history have come during Pollard’s six seasons at the helm. At the season’s conclusion, Duke University Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White announced that the school and Pollard had agreed to a contract extension through June 30, 2025.
Two years prior, Pollard led Duke to an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, the Blue Devils’ first NCAA appearance since 1961. In 2018, won the first regional in program history in dramatic fashion. No. 2 seed Duke took down top-seeded Georgia twice to conclude to run through the loser’s bracket after being shut out by Troy in the opening contest of the NCAA Athens Regional. After trailing Campbell 8-1 in the sixth inning of an elimination game Saturday, Duke outscored its opponents 47-15 over the next four games to advance to the first Super Regional in program history.
Six Blue Devils earned all-tournament team honors, led by freshman Chris Crabtree’s Most Outstanding Player citation. Crabtree had a breakout tournament, going 10-for-14 with two home runs, three doubles, nine RBI, six runs and three walks. Over five games in Athens, the Blue Devils hit .352 as a team with 15 doubles and eight home runs.
Duke’s tournament run showcased the Blue Devils’ balanced, veteran lineup. All eight of Duke’s starting position players had at least 60 starts, 30 RBI and a home run this season, while six totaled 10 or more stolen bases. As a team, Duke belted 30-or-more home runs for consecutive seasons for the first time since 2009-10 and posted the first 50-homer campaign since 2009. In addition, the Blue Devils swiped 90 bases this year, the team’s highest total since 1990 (95).
Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America and All-ACC Freshman Team selection Joey Loperfido led the team with a .315 batting average to go along with 69 hits, 45 runs scored, 43 RBI, 11 doubles, three triples and six home runs, while junior Griffin Conine proved to be one of the best power hitters in the country.
Conine totaled 35 extra base hits in 2018, including a team-best 18 home runs to go along with 14 doubles and 52 RBI. He is the first Blue Devil with 15 or more home runs in a season since Nate Freiman in 2009 and ranks sixth in school history with 31 career longballs. Conine recorded the longest home run in college baseball this season, a 497-foot longball against Gardner-Webb May 6.
At the top of the lineup, junior Jimmy Herron served as the quintessential leadoff hitter. Herron hit over .300 for the third straight season, owing a .304 batting average while totaling 18 doubles, five home runs, 61 runs scored, 36 RBI and 23 stolen bases. He has walked 14 more times than he’s struck out and leads Duke with a .419 on base percentage
Herron has been a productive player since his freshman year. He is the first Blue Devil to total 50 or more doubles and 50 or more stolen bases in a career. Herron ranks in the top 25 at Duke in career batting average, on base percentage, doubles, walks and stolen bases.
Unsurprisingly, Conine and Herron heard their names called early in the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft. The Toronto Blue Jays drafted Conine in the second round while the Chicago Cubs took Herron in the third round, marking the first time Duke had two players selected in the top three rounds in school history. Overall, seven Blue Devils – Conine, Herron, Chris Proctor (Detroit, 13th round), Zack Kone (Pittsburgh, 13th round), Ethan DeCaster (Detroit, 18th), Jack Labosky (Tampa Bay, 22nd Round) and Mitch Stallings (Atlanta, 30th round) were drafted, tying the school record set in 2009.
The draft punctuated tremendous seasons for All-America relievers Ethan DeCaster and Jack Labosky.
This season marks the first time Duke has had two players garner All-America honors in the same year since Dick Groat, Bill Werber and Joe Lewis were named All-Americans in 1952. Those were key to a Duke bullpen unit listed among the top in the country with a 2.87 ERA and 25-3 record in over 280 innings.
Freshman Bryce Jarvis and sophomore Graeme Stinson were also crucial to the bullpen success. Featuring an elite changeup, Jarvis went 5-1with a 2.45 ERA and 67 strikeouts, while Stinson was 5-1 with a 1.89 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 62 innings. Both pitchers played in the prestigious Cape Cod League while Stinson also earned a spot in the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team and traveled to Cuba with the squad.
After the season, seven Blue Devils began their professional baseball careers while returning players traveled across the country to participate in summer league baseball. The 2019 Duke baseball team comes together for the first time in August looking to build on what was a historic campaign.