Florida State's No. 1 ranking and near-perfect record is not about to intimidate Duke.
Going into their three-game series with the top-ranked Seminoles (27-1, 6-0 in the ACC) this weekend at Jack Coombs Field, the Blue Devils (19-9, 1-8) have prepared to meet the baseball powerhouse the same way they would any other ACC opponent.
Last week, Duke picked up its first conference win of the season against Georgia Tech. This weekend, the Blue Devils are gearing up to try and earn their second against the best team in the country.
"The way we approach the ACC and our season is to take it one game at a time," head coach Sean McNally said. "We're not satisfied with our start in the ACC, so we're looking forward to this game. We're not looking past FSU, we're focusing on this game."
But winning this second conference game will not be easy. At the plate, Florida State leads the ACC in almost every major statistical category, highlighted by a .380 batting average, a slugging percentage of .525 and 250 RBIs.
In comparison, the Blue Devils have accumulated a .313 batting average, a .446 slugging percentage and 175 RBIs this season. Duke ranks in the top four in the ACC in all three categories.
On defense, the Seminoles hold a .971 fielding percentage and have only committed 31 errors. From the mound, the Florida State pitchers have held opposing teams to a .209 batting average and have an ERA of 2.43-both conference bests.
"They play with a very aggressive style. Their pitchers will come after you and pound the strike zone," McNally said. "They have a lot of depth, so they can do that."
Despite the Seminoles' undeniably strong squad, Duke has prepared for its series with FSU by practicing the basics the program has been built around.
Using the two days between their 11-7 win over Campbell Tuesday and tonight's game, the Blue Devils have been working on maintaining their defense and continuing to improve their offense. In its win against the Fighting Camels Tuesday, Duke posted the most runs it has scored since March 13 against Farleigh Dickinson.
McNally said his team showed improvement during Tuesday's game from its offensive performance in its series against Georgia Tech March 23-25. Against Campbell, the Blue Devils almost doubled their run output in their weekend series against the Yellow Jackets-Duke crossed the plate just six times against Georgia Tech, but scored 11 against the Camels Tuesday.
"The key to our team is that our blueprint is always the same-we need to throw strikes, we need to play good defense," McNally said. "We're going to take a basic approach and work on fundamental areas you need to work on over the course of the year."
The Blue Devils start off their games against Florida State tonight at 7 p.m. and will continue the series Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at noon.
"Our players are really starting to settle into our style of play," McNally said. "This is another opportunity to do it against the best."
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