Amid melting snow piles from the midweek storm, Duke baseball opens its season with a Saturday doubleheader.
It’s year two of coach Chris Pollard’s tenure, with both players and coaches more comfortable this time around.
"We as coaches have a lot better feel for our personnel and what our interchangeable parts are," Pollard said. "We spent the first few weeks of the season last year, if I’m being honest, experimenting with the lineup combinations because we didn’t really have a handle on it. We had so many injuries in the fall that we didn’t really know who was going to fit best where. We have a really good feel for that this time this year. And that’s not to say that we’ve necessarily nailed down one lineup, but we know what parts fit best where."
Duke only lost one regular players off of last year’s 26 - 29 squad (9 - 21 in the ACC), but there are significant changes to the lineup and pitching staff as younger players have made large strides in the offseason.
All three weekend starters return, but just one, junior Trent Swart (4-4, 2.75 ERA) will keep his same spot (Friday night). Sophomore Michael Matuella, a midweek starter from last season who stands 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, will take over the Saturday spot. Matuella has hit 97 m.p.h. on the radar gun in his last two scrimmages, Pollard said, a significant jump in velocity from last year.
Sophomore James Marvell (4-2, 3.64 ERA) will take over the Sunday role.
Last year’s Saturday starter, senior Dew Van Orden, will be a midweek starter this season, and last year’s Sunday starter, senior Robert Huber, will take a co-closer role with junior Andrew Istler.
The lineup will change as well, with redshirt junior catcher Mike Rosenfeld (who was hitting .344 before missing the final 38 games with a finger injury) leading off, which will put all-ACC returners Andy Perez (second base) and Jordan Betts (third base) in a better position to collect RBIs.
Left-handed hitting first baseman Jalen Phillips, a sophomore, is another player who has significantly improved from last season. Sophomore Kenny Koplove will return as the every day shortstop, anchoring the defense.
Last year’s first baseman, redshirt junior Chris Marconcini returns, adding power to the lineup (.284 with 16 doubles, eight home runs and four triples). Redshirt junior Aaron Cohn, who missed most of last year with injuries, is another designated hitter option.
Outfielders Grant McCabe (.297 with five doubles, a triple, 25 runs scored and 21 RBI) and Mark Lumpa (.311 with two doubles, 18 runs scored and 14 RBI) are back as well.
Duke is seeking its first ACC Tournament berth since 2009.