In the aftermath of Duke’s first NCAA tournament bid since 1961, coach Chris Pollard has work to do.
First, he met with the media, putting words to the feeling of ending a 55-year postseason drought. Then he went to the radio, tending to his duties on Duke’s coaches show. The party was dying down, but the Blue Devils were still running behind schedule, pushing practice from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
And once they hit the field, it became a race to prepare for this weekend’s regional in Columbia, S.C.
“You have three days,” Pollard said, “So there are only so many hours in the day.”
There was on-field practice, which for Duke included a situational scrimmage in which hitters faced live pitching. But for the coaching staff, there was a scramble for information. Duke (33-22) is the No. 3 seed in Columbia and faces No. 2 UNC Wilmington (39-17) Friday at 1 p.m. After that, either No. 4 Rhode Island (30-25) or top-seeded South Carolina (42-15) awaits Saturday.
I can’t imagine that anyone coming out of any other league is as prepared as the teams coming out of the ACC.
Duke coach Chris Pollard
The Blue Devils aren’t particularly familiar with any of those teams or any of the tendencies their pitchers and hitters have. And the more Duke can find out in advance, the better prepared the Blue Devils will be.
“We try to get scouting reports and scouting information from anyone we can get it from, anybody that is willing to give us that information,” Pollard said. “Monday, you spend a lot of time on the phone trying to track down that information. There is no substitute for seeing stuff with your own eyes, so a lot of it over the last few days has been watching games, watching archived games that these teams have played.”
Finding game footage has gotten easier in recent years, especially with online broadcasts on ESPN3 and, for UNCW, CAA TV. And it’s a small college baseball world, so undoubtedly most staffs have friends or old colleagues at other schools that have faced unfamiliar postseason opponents.
And while the Blue Devils could be a potential kingpin of the college baseball information market – given their familiarity with the other nine ACC teams in the field – that isn’t a role Pollard is willing to play.
“We have a really good relationship amongst our ACC coaches,” he said. “There’s an understanding that we’re not going to give out information on each other. We haven’t shared information on other ACC programs and would hope and expect that they haven’t shared information on us.”
All of this behind-the-scenes work will be distilled into a scouting report posted in Duke’s dugout Friday. And for freshman leadoff hitter Jimmy Herron, that’s enough.
“As long as we go out and play our best, we should be able to play with anybody,” Herron said. “There shouldn’t be anybody that can blow us away.”
While the ACC fraternity is helpful in guarding information, it’s also given the Blue Devils a strong sense of confidence. Both Pollard and Herron pointed to Duke’s success in conference play, including series wins against host teams Florida State and Clemson, as evidence that the Blue Devils are prepared to handle anything any team in the Columbia regional could possibly throw at them.
“I can’t imagine that anyone coming out of any other league is as prepared as the teams coming out of the ACC,” Pollard said. “We’ve talked openly as a group of coaches in the ACC. Coming out of this league, you’ve seen as good as you’re going to see arguably in any regional or super regional.”