The Blue Devils swept rival North Carolina this past weekend for the first time since 1994 and managed to break a four-game losing streak in the process. With a newfound three-game winning streak and the most momentum it has had all year, Duke will have to continue to look past history when it takes on the Flames Tuesday at 6 p.m at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
The matchup will be the second contest between the two teams this year—the second game in a home-and-home series that started March 5 when Liberty (21-7) traveled to Duke (17-12) and defeated the Blue Devils 8-2. Although the score may not indicate it, the game was very close throughout and ended up going into extra innings where the Flames piled on six runs in the top of the 11th inning to secure the victory.
Duke has come a long way since that early-season matchup but will still have to be wary of a talented Liberty team that will be led on the mound by lefty hurler Blake Fulghum. The junior southpaw boasts a 2.37 ERA and elite control, as he has only walked five batters in 30.1 innings pitched this season, good enough for him to register a 2-2 record thus far.
Taking the mound for the Blue Devils will be Andrew Istler. Istler leads the pitching staff with a 38.1 innings pitched and has compiled a 3-3 record along the way. With a 2.35 ERA, Istler has the tools to hold off the Liberty attack early on, as he is second on the team with 24 strikeouts.
If Duke wants to come away with a victory this time around, the Blue Devils will need to continue to have offensive success like they did against the Tar Heels, as they averaged six runs per contest in the weekend series. As shown in the games prior to the North Carolina series, Duke struggled early on in tight games, posting a 4-9 record in games decided by two runs or less prior to this most recent series.
Tuesday's matchup will kick off a four-game road trip for the Blue Devils as they will head down I-85 this weekend to take on Georgia Tech for a three-game weekend series.