Duke softball is in uncharted territory.
The 23rd-ranked Blue Devils swept their four games at the Gamecock Invitational in Columbia, S.C., over the weekend, continuing the best start in program history. Duke needed only 11 innings for two lopsided wins Saturday against Seton Hall and Longwood by run rule, holding the two opponents to a combined six baserunners. The Blue Devils then added two more wins Sunday: another victory against Seton Hall and a 5-1 drubbing of host and No. 21 South Carolina in the afternoon finale.
Duke (12-1) did more than just extend its historic start to the season, though—this weekend showed that its start was no fluke. For example, junior infielder Deja Davis is good. Like, really good. Her .519 batting average entering the weekend actually increased after she finished 7-for-12 in Columbia, while she doubled her RBI total to 12 and smashed two home runs. She was responsible for four of the Blue Devils’ five runs Sunday against South Carolina, but she’s not alone in Duke's lineup.
“We've gotten a lot of production from people up and down the lineup, which is key,” head coach Marissa Young said. “We've talked from day one about the depth that we have on this team, and we're seeing that.”
This could go down as understatement of the year—as a team, the Blue Devils are batting .289 (third in the ACC), they have drawn more walks than strikeouts and have over three times as many extra base hits as do their opponents.
Freshman catcher Kelly Torres has seen increasing playing time behind the plate as she continues to get on base and call near-perfect outings from Duke’s pitching staff. Young had high praises for the South Florida native, calling her work on the field and relationship with her pitchers “outstanding, remarkable, really impressive.”
"Seeing what she's able to do with the plate, and the success she's having is obviously increasing her catching time," Young added.
Young threw out a few more names of impact players from Sunday’s matchups, including senior Jameson Kavel, who impressively managed to track down a ball destined for the gap in left-center all while a train horn was blaring just a football field-length away.
Duke's consistency from the pitching circle continued as well, something that has been a principal factor in the team's success all season. Senior Brianna Butler started off Sunday’s game against South Carolina with two scoreless frames, but with no outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the third, she fell behind the batter 3-0 on pitches Young said were called balls because “the umpire’s zone was a little complicated.”
Just like that, in came fellow senior Peyton St. George to finish the game. What looked like a questionable decision at the time turned out nicely for the Blue Devils, as St. George polished off the weekend with five innings, six strikeouts and a lone run on a seventh-inning see-ya, just 24 hours after throwing a complete-game shutout.
“As a coaching staff, we’re super pleased and really proud of our kids for the work that they continue to put in, and the consistency that they show up to play with every single game, regardless of who our opponent is,” Young said.
While Young crafts the team identity by employing unusual pitching tactics and leaning on contributions from her freshmen, all there is to say is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
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