Towson comes to Duke this weekend for a three-game series this weekend, but the Tigers aren’t too familiar with the Blue Devils.
“We haven’t played them since 1988. I know Marcus Stroman was a first-round draft pick last year, but he’s a pitcher, and that’s about it,” Towson head coach Mike Gottlieb said.
Coming off the team’s first home loss of the season, Duke will look to rebound against Towson, which comes to Durham for a three-game series this weekend.
The Blue Devils (4-3) fell against Campbell Wednesday in a 9-3 battle that was closer than the score indicated. The Fighting Camels led by just two runs for most of the game, until sophomore reliever Dalton Brown surrendered four runs in the top of the ninth.
Although Duke failed to keep up offensively with Campbell, redshirt sophomore first baseman Chris Marconcini was hot at the plate, going 2-for-3 including his second home run of the season. In addition to earning his first career start, freshman shortstop Kenny Koplove notched both his first career hit and RBI on a single in the fourth to score center fielder Anthony D’Alessandro.
This season, however, the Blue Devils have been primarily characterized by their dominant starting pitching. The trio of sophomore lefty Trent Swart and junior righties Drew Van Orden and Robert Huber—who will be Duke’s three starters this weekend—gave up only one run in a combined 20 innings of work in the team’s three game sweep of Bucknell.
“Looking at the numbers, it would appear they have pretty good pitching, that’s the thing that jumps out at you,” Gottlieb said. “All three [starting] pitchers look pretty good. I’ve never seen any of them, but I know what they’ve been doing early in the season.”
Gottlieb, however, is less familiar with the Blue Devils’ offense.
“There aren’t necessarily any guys we’re looking out for. I know nothing about Duke’s lineup,” Gottlieb said.
The Tigers (4-2) are in the midst of a two-game losing streak after winning their first four to kick off a season, including a sweep McNeese State University. Their offense is led by junior right fielder Dominic Fratantuono, who has a .385 batting average and at least one hit in each of Towson’s games so far this season. Fratantuono’s hot bat, however, has not been enough for the Tigers. After scoring 30 runs against McNeese, Towson was held to only six in its three games against Nicholls State University.
“We swung the bat well our first weekend, but not so much last weekend,” Gottlieb said.
The Tigers, meanwhile, boast a 2.02 earned run average, led by starting pitchers Mike Volpe and Brandon Gonnella. Volpe, a senior, has given up only one earned run in 10.1 innings pitched, while Gonnella, a junionr, has held opponents scoreless in 11.2 innings. Gottlieb is both excited for his starters to take the mound against the Blue Devils, and for his team to hit against Duke’s trio.
“So far, we’ve pitched pretty well, and we’re playing a good style of defense,” Gottlieb said. “That’s us. We’ve been in every game we’ve played so far… but Duke’s pitching that would be great preparation going into our first conference weekend next weekend. It will be better than anything that we see in our conference.”