Fresh off a pair of out-of-conference wins this week, the red-hot Blue Devils will take on No. 3 Miami in a three-game series this weekend at Jack Coombs Field with games at 7 p.m tonight, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday.
The Hurricanes (19-2, 7-1 ACC) are one of the nation's top programs, but Duke (21-5, 4-5) has proved that it can compete with top competition this season. All three of the Blue Devils' conference opponents this year-North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia Tech-were ranked in the top 25 at the time of the series, and Duke has captured a victory against all three.
"This is why the conference is so exciting," head coach Sean McNally said. "We have great respect for Miami, but we've had success this season and held our own against the nation's best."
In the Blue Devils' series against the Cavaliers, Duke not only took two of three, but scored six runs in three innings off Virginia ace Jacob Thompson in the opening 9-8 win. Thompson finished the 2007 campaign with an 11-0 record and 1.50 ERA, and the Cavaliers lost only one of his starts-2-1 to Georgia Tech in 11 innings.
The Hurricanes will bring a pair of infielders that figure to join Thompson as Major League Baseball first-round draft picks to Durham this weekend.
First baseman Yonder Alonso, a junior who moved to Miami from Cuba at the age of nine, led the conference last season with 18 home runs and tied for the lead in RBIs with 74. This season, Alonso is eighth in the conference with a .397 batting average and has twice as many walks as strikeouts.
Miami's other marquee player, second baseman Jemile Weeks, is the younger brother of Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks. As just a junior, Weeks is already tied for the all-time lead on the Hurricanes list for career triples with 17. In the 2008 season, Weeks is hitting at a .425 clip, good for second in the ACC, and has hit six home runs while knocking in 26 runs.
"They have a terrific lineup," McNally said. "We know we have to play very well to beat them."
Duke's Alex Hassan is at the top of the conferences offensive charts this season along with Weeks and Alonso, but as a whole, the Hurricanes offense has been more productive this season, averaging 9.5 runs per game to Duke's 7.6.
On the pitching end, however, the Blue Devils have compiled a staff ERA over a half-run better than Miami. During his three-year tenure at Duke, McNally has stressed the importance of pitching and defense to his team's success. And with Duke's staff currently sporting a 2.97 ERA and the defense having the top fielding percentage in the conference, there is good reason to think that Duke can continue its successful season.
"Miami plays a lot like us and does the little things well," sophomore Gabriel Saade said. "We always come out ready to play, and we're coming out this weekend ready to win."
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