Coming off their second consecutive sweep last weekend against Cornell, the Blue Devils will look to stay hot entering conference play against a top-20 opponent this weekend.

Duke will host No. 17 Virginia Friday at 4 p.m. at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The two teams will take the field once again Saturday and Sunday with the first pitch set for 1 p.m. The Blue Devils enter the series with a perfect 9-0 record at home and have not lost since dropping two of three games during their season-opening weekend against Vanderbilt.

“We’ve continued to get guys heated up at the plate,” Duke head coach Chris Pollard said. “Since we got back to Durham, we’ve just gotten guys comfortable in the box, our run production has gone up and we’ve built some depth in our bullpen.”

The Blue Devils (10-2) have ridden their offense during the win streak. Duke is averaging nearly seven runs per contest in its last nine games, and it has been a pair of newcomers leading the way in the early going.

Freshmen Joey Loperfido and Michael Rothenberg have seamlessly transitioned to the collegiate level, leading the Blue Devils with respective batting averages of .389 and .355. Loperfido also leads Duke with 12 RBIs, and the Haddonfield, N.J., native is tied for the team best in runs and hits. 

Despite playing in just nine of the Blue Devils' 12 games, Rothenberg has impressed with his ability to drive the ball. Rothenberg leads Duke with a .645 slugging percentage and is tied for first on the team with two home runs. 

“Michael Rothenberg and Joey Loperfido are both playing at a really high level,” Pollard said. “Joey Loperfido has been doing this since September. If you look at our fall numbers and our preseason numbers and obviously including the start of the season, he’s one of the best OPS guys on our team. He’s also played terrific first base.”

Although the freshmen have been shining, the Blue Devils will need junior Griffin Conine to get back on track in order to take down the Cavaliers. Conine has struggled since a dominant opening series, and the Weston, Fla., native went hitless in three games against Cornell last weekend. Conine will look to build on a two-hit, three-RBI night Wednesday against Longwood as Duke faces a tough Virginia rotation.

Starters Evan Sperling and Derek Casey have been especially dominant out of the gates for Virginia (9-4)—both men are 2-0 to start the season and sport ERAs better than 2.50. Sperling has not been touched this season, as opponents have hit just .107 against him, getting six hits in 16 2/3 innings pitched. Casey has also been tough to hit so far, leading the Cavaliers with 31 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.

“We saw all three of those guys last year, and they’re all three veteran arms,” Pollard said. “Casey pitched against us in the ACC tournament. He’s a plus competitor. He’s not going to beat himself, you’re going to have to beat him. He’s not going to lose feel or give you a lot free offense, so you’re going to have to generate your own offense against a guy like that.” 

While Virginia has shut down opponents’ offenses, its own offense has also been unstoppable. The Cavaliers have hit .302 as a team through their first 13 games, and they boast an astounding seven starters with batting averages better than .310. Virginia is unlikely to overpower the Blue Devils since it has just two players with more than a single home run, but its ability to string together long innings could overwhelm the constantly evolving Duke bullpen.

“Finding the right role for each guy down there is a big key for us, and it’s always a fluid process,” Pollard said. “We’ve been able to have a lot of comfortable innings in the pen over the last couple weeks. You don’t always get that luxury in ACC play, and guys will have to come in in tougher spots and pitch in higher pressure situations.” 

Following this weekend’s series against the Cavaliers, Duke will host Yale Tuesday and Wednesday prior to closing a 17-game homestand with a weekend series against Miami.