Fresh off a 3-0 shutout of Charlotte Wednesday night, Duke will travel to Clemson, S.C. to meet the Tigers for a three-game weekend series.
The Blue Devils (11-10, 2-4 in the ACC) will look to continue to improve their offensive execution, which was successful Wednesday night against the 49ers.
“We did a better job with our situational offense, but we can still do better with less than two outs and runners in scoring position,” head coach Chris Pollard said.
Duke was able to manufacture two of its three runs against the 49ers with sacrifice flies after advancing runners around the bases. The Blue Devils also executed sacrifice bunts and even bunted for a hit.
“We want to be able to create angles in the defense,” Pollard said, a sign that Duke will continue to show bunt and put runners in motion.
The Blue Devil offense has strung together three consecutive games of at least nine hits, including 11 against Charlotte. Though Duke has scored just five runs in its last two games combined, Pollard is optimistic that the runs will come, if the hit parade continues.
“You keep getting 11 hits per game on offense and you’re going to be in a good position,” Pollard said.
Against Clemson (13-7, 3-3), Duke will prepare to face a trio of tall, right handed starting pitchers for the Tigers. Sophomore Daniel Gossett (2-1, 1.71 ERA) will open the series, followed by freshman Clate Schmidt (2-0, 3.38 ERA) and senior Scott Firth (2-3, 2.48 ERA). Pollard said the Blue Devils have seen power pitchers before and fared well.
“We’ve had some of our best success off right-handed power arms,” Pollard said. “You’re talking about guys like [Jonathon] Crawford at Florida, Javi Salas at Miami.”
Duke defeated Florida 4-3 in the season opener in Gainesville, Fla., a game that Crawford started for the Gators. The Blue Devils beat Salas and Miami 9-2 March 9 in Coral Gables, Fla.
Duke will hand the ball to sophomore lefty Trent Swart (2-0, 1.45 ERA) to open the series Friday evening. Right-handed junior starter Drew Van Orden (1-2, 4.21 ERA) will get the nod Saturday, and righty junior Robert Huber (2-2, 4.63 ERA) will take the hill Sunday.
The Duke staff will look to contain a potent Clemson offense. The Tigers average 5.2 runs per game, and have 43 extra-base hits on the year. Garrett Boulware, Celmson’s sophomore catcher, leads the club with a .365 batting average, four home runs and 20 RBIs.
Pollard and the Blue Devils pitching staff will be wary of Boulware’s power but plan to approach the pitch-calling the same way as usual.
“We want to pitch to our strengths before we pitch to a particular hitter’s weakness,” Pollard said. “For Trent, that’s his changeup. For Drew, that’s his cutter. And for Robert, that’s his fastball.”
In general, Duke’s pitching philosophy revolves around minimizing pitch count. “We want our pitchers to throw first-pitch strikes and get ahead in the count, and also pitch to contact,” Pollard said. “We’re looking for soft contact within three pitches [of an at-bat].”
Friday’s game, originally scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m., was pushed up to 4 p.m. due to the possibility of inclement weather.