Duke baseball beat one national seed on Monday and is preparing to take on another beginning Saturday.
The Blue Devils (44-16) eliminated No. 8 seeded Georgia, beating the Bulldogs 8-5 and 8-4 last Monday to claim the NCAA Tournament’s Athens Regional.
With the Regional win, Duke is making its first ever Super Regional appearance as it takes on No. 9 seed Texas Tech (42-17) on the Red Raiders’ home field.
The Blue Devils are two wins from their first College World Series appearance since 1961. To get there, they’ll have to handle a Texas Tech team that averaged 10 runs per game while sweeping its three games to win the Lubbock Regional.
Here are three things Duke has to be concerned about against Texas Tech:
Texas Tech has a team batting average of .310 with 78 home runs. Both statistics lead the Big 12 Conference.
The middle of the Red Raiders’ order packs a serious punch. No. 3 hitter Josh Jung has a .384 average of 12 home runs. He’s followed by cleanup hitter Grant Little (.380, 12 home runs) and No. 5 hitter Zach Rheams (.347, 16 home runs).
Michael Davis, who batted No. 7 in the order when Texas Tech beat Louisville 11-6 last Sunday, has 11 home runs and a .290 average.
“They play for the big inning,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said. “They play for the long ball. You are not going to see as much small ball as you would out of some other teams.”
Duke’s pitching staff has to keep the ball low in the strike zone to be effective and not let the Red Raiders pound home runs all weekend. Just as importantly, Pollard said, the Blue Devils can’t issue many walks.
“Where you really get into trouble is when you have key guys coming to the plate with guys on base,” Pollard said. “That’s where they can do damage. We have to be really good against a team that’s powerful and is good at scoring runs in limiting free offense.”
Solid starting pitching
Texas Tech’s top two starting pitchers were both taken in the MLB draft earlier this week in between their Regional win and the beginning of Super Regional play.
Ryan Shetter (5-0, 2.97 ERA) was picked in the ninth round by Atlanta, while Caleb Kilian (9-1, 2.39) went in the 20th round to Baltimore.
Both right-handers picked up wins in the Regional. Duke will have to win at least one of the games they start if it hopes to advance.
Two other starters Duke could see are Davis Martin (7-5, 4.56) and John McMillon (5-3, 4.14). Both are also right-handers, which is the side nearly all of Texas Tech’s pitchers throw from.
“They are interesting,” Pollard said. “A lot of their guys are what I would term pitchability guys. Not gonna see a lot of guys with elite velocity. But guys that can really pitch, can get to the corners, throw their secondary stuff in the zone.”
Home field fun
Texas Tech has a 25-5 record at Rip Griffin Park, where all of the Lubbock Super Regional games will be played. The Red Raiders went 8-4 at home in Big 12 play, winning all but one of their four league series. (Texas Tech lost two out of three to Texas).
Red Raiders fans give them solid support that helps lead to all those wins.
The stadium’s capacity is listed at 4,432. In last weekend’s regional, the three games had an average attendance of 4,510.
Duke was able to quiet the home crowd at Athens last weekend and will have to prove its mettle by doing it again in Lubbock if it wants to make the College World Series.
Duke at Texas Tech
When: 3 p.m., Saturday
Where: Lubbock, Texas