As 2022 comes to a close, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest stories of the year in Duke athletics. Each day, we will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year for the Blue Devils.
Coming in at No. 7: Duke softball's meteoric rise only continued in 2022, with the program further establishing itself among the nation's best in its fifth season. For the full list, click here.
Duke found itself in a predicament heading into its fifth season as a program.
The Blue Devils were the defending ACC champions and returned eight of their nine starting hitters from the 2021 regionals as well as their two most dominant pitchers. With all of the positives that came with so much talent and experience, so did the lofty preseason expectations that can bless or curse any team.
The high hopes turned out to be a blessing. The Blue Devils, led by Peyton St. George and Jala Wright in the circle and Kristina Foreman, Jameson Kavel and Rachel Crabtree in the batter’s box, went 40-7 in the regular season and only lost to two unranked opponents en route to making the super regionals for the first time in program history.
Duke even managed to do this without Shelby Walters, who had the team’s lowest ERA and most innings pitched in the season before, after Walters went down with a season-ending injury in February. St. George and Wright accounted for greater than 75% of the total innings pitched and both had an ERA below 2.10, which was plenty low enough considering the offense averaged better than seven runs per game. That offense came largely from the seven Blue Devils with more than 80 at bats who hit over .300 and the five different players who totaled double-digit home runs.
Even with all the offensive production and quality pitching, Duke ran into its adversity once postseason play rolled around. The Blue Devils had their hopes of being repeat ACC champions taken away by Florida State, and they found themselves one game away from a painful episode of deja vu against Georgia in the regionals.
The Bulldogs knocked Duke out in the 2021 regionals, and in the second inning of the 2022 regional championship game, their 5-1 lead made it look like history would repeat. But Foreman doubled in the third inning for her second RBI to catalyze an offensive barrage that resulted in a 5-5 tie at the end of the frame.
After an inning of scoreless softball, Kamryn Jackson worked a walk with the bases loaded to give Duke the 6-5 lead. The Blue Devils added on seven more runs to eventually mercy Georgia 13-5 and send themselves to the super regionals against perennial powerhouse UCLA.
The Bruins knocked Duke out of the NCAA tournament to make it fall short of going to the Women's College World Series. But following a regional appearance up with a super regional berth is an accomplishment in itself, and one that will give head coach Marissa Young plenty of recruiting ammunition as she continues to establish Duke as a nationally relevant program capable of competing for college world series appearances on a yearly basis.
READ MORE on Duke softball's historic season:
SUPER: Duke softball rallies past Georgia to advance to program's first super regional
(B)RUINED: Duke softball eliminated from super regionals with loss to UCLA
Jala Wright throws no-hitter against Army, Duke softball splits games with Michigan in Duke Invitational
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Jake Piazza is a Trinity senior and was sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.