The No. 21 Blue Devils have been an absolute force this season, though they will now be forced to leave the state of North Carolina for the first time in five weeks.

After enjoying a 15-2 mark at home, Duke will be forced to escape its comfort zone this weekend as it travels to Pittsburgh for its first away conference series of 2018. The first pitch Friday and Saturday at Charles L. Cost Field will be at 3 p.m., with Sunday's series finale set to start at noon.

With wins Tuesday and Wednesday against Campbell and Maryland Eastern Shore, respectively, the Blue Devils continued their undefeated record in midweek games. This is in no small part due to the plethora of pitchers that head coach Chris Pollard has at his disposal. Ten pitchers have pitched at least 10 innings for Duke, and a staggering 90 percent of these hurlers have tallied a sub-4.00 ERA. 

“We were able to really go into our depth, and that’s a strength of this team. You saw it on display on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week when we really didn’t have to extend either Ethan DeCaster or Jack Labosky,” Pollard told “So both of those guys were able to stay fresh and were ready to extend if needed, and ultimately Jack pitched twice against Miami on back-to-back days, for the first time this year, and handled it very well. Having that depth and not having to burn through our bullpen midweek means we don’t have to compromise our play on the weekend.” 

The Panthers (11-7, 1-5 in the ACC) have been shellacked in their conference games thus far. The 1-5 ACC record doesn’t even do their performance justice—Pittsburgh has scored 22 runs and allowed 49, resulting in a putrid minus-27 run differential. Joe Jordano, who has been head coach of the program for more than two decades, has not led his squad to a performance better than .500 in conference play since 2013. 

Nonetheless, the Panthers' luck may reverse itself soon. They have played zero games at home thus far, and perhaps all Pittsburgh needs to get back on track in the ACC is a string of contests at Charles L. Cost Field.

Liam Sabino, a redshirt junior transfer who began his career at Vanderbilt, is potentially the most imposing offensive force that the Blue Devils have faced in the 2018 campaign. The third baseman leads the Panthers in virtually every offensive category, including batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, total bases and stolen bases. Despite his impressive success at the plate, Sabino has amassed an eye-opening 36.9 strikeout percentage, exposing mortality in his superhero-esque statistics. 

Some unknowns create an aura of uncertainty surrounding this series. Could Pittsburgh transform into a more adept group at home? After all, the Panthers had a .500 record at home in 2017 versus a putrid .238 mark on the road. On the same note, this is an untested Blue Devil team when it comes to playing away from home. But given the year-to-date results, Duke (18-4, 4-2) should be the favorite to win its third straight ACC series.