With LDOC, finals and moving out all taking place in a two week span, the end of the year can be exhausting.
But the Blue Devils have looked anything but exhausted heading down the home stretch and will look to keep their recent success going when they travel to Winston-Salem, N.C., Friday to take on the Demon Deacons at Gene Hooks Field at Wake Forest Baseball Park in the 290th meeting between the two programs.
“The fatigue factor can be higher at a place like Duke because you have so many academic challenges this time of year," head coach Chris Pollard said. "Our guys are spread thin for sure. We realize that and we [have] got to fight against fatigue.”
After struggling in the beginning of the season with leaving runners on base, Duke is riding a six-game winning streak and has won eight of its last nine games.
“We certainly gained some confidence [and] I think that certainly is going to benefit us over the rest of the season,” Pollard said.
On offense, the Blue Devils will look to senior Jordan Betts, who leads all active ACC players with 64 career doubles, and junior redshirt Chris Marconcini, who leads the conference with 39 RBIs for the season.
But despite its recent success, Pollard maintains Duke will have to take it one step at a time.
“We have played well over the last two weeks," Pollard said. "There’s an old saying in baseball that momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher.”
With 19 straight shutout innings, the Duke pitching squad has been unstoppable as of late. The Blue Devils (25-17, 12-9 ACC) continued their hot streak with a 2-0 victory against UNC-Greensboro Wednesday. The dominant Duke defense is led by senior Drew Van Orden and sophomore Michael Matuella, who have both received ACC Pitcher of the Week honors this season.
Although the ACC tournament is coming up in a couple of weeks, it will be important for the Blue Devils to focus on the task at hand.
“The biggest thing that our guys have to do is to continue to maintain that focus on our process and our competing and taking it one pitch at a time,” Pollard said.
Wake Forest (26-18, 12-9 in ACC) has a strong pitching squad of its own featuring closer Aaron Fossas, who was just named to the watch list for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award. Boasting an ERA of 2.65, Fossas has also struck out 25 batters this season.
“They’re a lot like us," Pollard said. "They’ve got some balance in their line-up. They’ve thrown very well out of their bullpen and it’s kind of like, in a lot of ways, playing a mirror image of yourself.”
Despite the fact that Duke and Wake Forest have not faced one another in the last two years, history will be against the Blue Devils, as the Demon Deacons lead the all-time series 152-135-2. The two teams will play again Saturday at 4 p.m. and will wrap up the series Sunday at 1 p.m.