DURHAM, N.C. - The Duke baseball team will open its official practice period on Friday, Jan. 27, at Jack Coombs Field. Friday's first day of practice signals the beginning of the 2012 college baseball season. The Blue Devils will be guided by Sean McNally, who enters his seventh season as head coach of his alma mater.
Duke returns 20 letterwinners, including seven position players who made at least 35 starts, from last year's 26-30 squad. The Blue Devils return eight pitchers, highlighted by junior right-hander Marcus Stroman, who will be the ace of the Duke pitching staff.
Stroman, who also made 33 starts in the field last season, went 3-4 on the mound with a team-best 2.80 ERA in 2011. He ranked third in the nation last year with 12.60 strikeouts per nine innings, striking out a team-high 90 batters in 64.1 innings. Stroman, who also had a team-high four saves, held opponents to two or fewer runs in 15 of 17 appearances last season. Stroman spent the summer on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, serving as the team's closer. He went 4-for-4 in save opportunities and did not allow a hit in 8.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Stroman struck out 17 of the 27 batters he faced while issuing just one walk for the U.S. squad.
Junior Jeff Kremer is Duke's top returning hitter after leading the club with a .347 batting average in 2011. Sophomore Chris Marconcini earned Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America honors following his first season in Durham in which he led the team in doubles (15), triples (six), home runs (four), RBI (39), runs scored (41), slugging percentage (.481) and total bases (99). Senior Will Piwnica-Worms, who is Duke's active leader in hits, runs, doubles, home runs, RBI and stolen bases, is back for his final season in Durham.
Sophomores Jordan Betts and Angelo LaBruna, who started all 56 games as freshmen at third base and shortstop, respectively, will anchor the left side of the infield. Sophomore outfielder Anthony D'Alessandro is also back after hitting .303 as a first-year player.