Diamond Scouting Report: Duke
Apr 19, 2012
Brian O'Connor leads UVa into a critical road series at Duke.
The Virginia baseball team bounced back from being swept by UNC at home last weekend by beating the Richmond Spiders on Tuesday night. The Hoos won 7-5 after giving up a 3-run HR in the top of the first inning. Now they play the next two weekend ACC series away from Davenport Field. First up is a trip to one of their favorite venues, Durham Bulls Athletic Park, for a three-game weekend series against the Duke Blue Devils.
Here is a brief scouting report on Duke.
Duke Scouting Report
2012 Results to date: 14-24, 6-12 in ACC competition. Most recently, Duke was beaten at home by Davidson 8-4 on Tuesday night after dropping the weekend series against Maryland two games to one in College Park this past weekend.
2011 Results: 26-30, 7-23 in ACC competition. Duke did not make the ACC Tournament in 2011 nor did it make the NCAA Tournament.
2011 Series with Virginia: Virginia swept Duke in Charlottesville last April, winning 10-0, 3-2 in 11 innings and 18-4.
Outlook: In 2012, coach Sean McNally began his 7th season at the helm of the Duke baseball team. He has nearly all of his position players from 2011 returning and loses only one starting pitcher in Dennis O'Grady (6-3, 3.65 ERA, 86 IP) and one relief pitcher in Ben Grist (3-3, 5.23 ERA, 43 IP). He also added 10 new players, including one freshman who has stepped into a weekend starting pitcher role. His team is very young, with only 2 seniors (one of whom starts and the other is a primary relief pitcher) and 5 juniors (2 of whom start). The rest of the starters are either sophomores or freshmen. In 2011, Duke finished 5th in the Coastal Division, just ahead of Virginia Tech, but the Devils were picked to finish last in that Division in 2012 based on preseason voting. They currently are exactly where predicted, in last place in the Coastal Division.
Pitching: The Duke pitching staff ace is junior RHP/1B Marcus Stroman, a preseason candidate for ACC Player of the Year. As the Friday night starting pitcher, Stroman is 3-3 in 9 starts with an ERA of 2.05 in 66 IP, so he has pitched an average of at least 7 innings per start. Stroman has walked only 18 batters and struck out 93, but has not had much run support from the Duke offense in his starts or the Blue Devil bullpen has given up leads late in games he started. He also has played in 7 games at 1B or 2B, but is batting only .133, well down from past years when he was Duke's regular 2B starter. The Saturday starting pitcher has been freshman LHP Trent Swart (3-5, 4.05 ERA, 46 IP) and the Sunday starting pitcher has been sophomore RHP Robert Huber (4-3, 3.35 ERA, 51 IP). The Blue Devil primary weekend relief pitchers have been freshman RHP Andrew Istler (2-3, 4.20 ERA, 3 saves in 15 appearances) and sophomore RHP Drew Van Order (0-3, 6.18 ERA in 18 appearances). Senior RHP David Putnam (1-1, 3.19 ERA, 4 saves in 19 appearances) has been the primary closer, but both he and Istler have taken over the weekend reliever roles as Van Order has given up some leads lately.
The Duke staff ERA is 4.49 and the Blue Devils have given up 162 walks while striking out 306 batters. By comparison, Virginia's pitching staff ERA is 3.32 and the Hoos have given up 122 walks while striking out 311 batters.
Batting/Fielding: Senior CF Will Piwnica-Worms is back for his final year as a starter and outstanding outfielder. In 2011, he batted only .264, but did not make a single error in 52 starts in CF. This year, he is batting .310 and has made 4 errors in 33 starts. He has not started the last 5 games due to a leg injury, but he got a pinch hit single in the 8th inning in Sunday's game against the Terps to give the Blue Devils the lead as they went on to win 5-3. After pinch-hitting, he was replaced by a pinch runner. Sophomore Anthony D'Alessandro (.229) has been starting in CF during Piwnica-Worms' recovery. The rest of the outfield is manned by sophomore David Perkins (.200) in LF and freshman Grant McCabe (.301) in RF.
In the infield, sophomore Jordan Betts (.234) starts at 3B, sophomore Angelo La Bruna (.191) at SS, sophomore Mark Lumpa (.300) at 2B, and sophomore Mike Rosenfeld (.308) returns at catcher. The 1B position has been a revolving door lately between Stroman (.133) when he is not pitching, freshman Andy Perez (.310) and junior Ryan Munger (.120) with Stroman starting the last three games (last two against Maryland and Tuesday's game against Davidson). The regular DH for Duke has been junior Jeff Kremer (.302).
The Blue Devils' batting average is .265 and they have struck out a total of 251 times lead by Rosenfeld (35) and Betts (32). By comparison, Virginia's team batting average is .304 and they have struck out a total of 227 times lead by Fisher (37). The Duke defense has committed 44 errors for a fielding percentage of .969 and they have given up 30 unearned runs. UVa's defense has committed 39 errors for a fielding percentage of .974 and the Cavaliers have given up 36 unearned runs.
Prediction: In my opinion, this upcoming Duke series has grown well past the important stage to become critical for Virginia. The Cavaliers need a series win at a minimum and a sweep would be better yet. Nine of the last 12 ACC contests for the Hoos are away from Davenport Field. That's the bad news; the good news is that six of those away games are against teams in each division with losing records and teams which Virginia swept last year. To stay in contention for a safe at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, UVa needs to win those six games against Duke and Maryland, plus the home series against Georgia Tech and then any win in the series at Miami will be frosting. Since the Miami series is the weekend after the Duke series and not at the end, these games in Durham take on a sense of urgency to win all of them and get some momentum before heading down to Coral Gables.
While looking ahead is dangerous for any baseball team, each game in Durham will need that sense of urgency, single-minded focus and absolute will to win no matter what happens during the game. That mental and physical toughness has been characteristic of Cavalier baseball in recent years and it needs to find a home in the 2012 team for the last 17 games of this season. I think the Hoos get the job done and sweep the Blue Devils, but, as always, the Friday game will set the tone. Branden Kline will need to be especially sharp that night because Duke has its ace pitcher on the mound. But if Virginia can get to the Blue Devil bullpen by the 6th inning, then I think the Hoos can take game one and build on that win to get the sweep.
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