Duke softball postseason preview: Blue Devils hosting a regional in hopes of making their first College World Series

Ana Gold's firepower has been a big part of Duke's success this year.
Ana Gold's firepower has been a big part of Duke's success this year.

As Duke softball is hosting an opening regional of the NCAA tournament, the Blue Zone previews the team's postseason matchups:

Heading into the postseason, Duke has had what can only be explained as an outstanding softball season. The Blue Devils enter the NCAA tournament with a 45-10 record, including a 19-5 record in a strong ACC. Duke also fell just short of an ACC title, losing 2-1 in a heartbreaking championship game against Florida State. As a result of their stellar regular season performance, the Blue Devils were tabbed as the No. 8 overall seed for the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Duke has no shortage of offensive firepower on its roster, as the team averaged 6.13 runs scored per contest, the 15th-best mark in Division I. The main engine behind this output has been sophomore third baseman Ana Gold, who has established herself as one of the best sluggers in the country. Gold has hit 18 home runs heading into the postseason, a single-season program record and tied for the 10th-best total in the nation. The Ballston Spa, N.Y., native is also batting .300 on the season with a .425 on-base percentage. The Blue Devils have multiple hitters with outstanding averages, such as freshman outfielder D’Auna Jennings, who is batting an excellent .453 on the season, the ninth-highest total in the country. Combine those two with other quality hitters like Deja Davis and Aminah Vega, and the team has one of the most daunting lineups in the tournament. 

Even with Duke’s high-powered offense, the Blue Devil pitching staff has certainly held up their end of the bargain. As a team, Duke boasts a 2.10 ERA, the 20th-lowest tally in Division I. A major contributor to this defensive stoutness has been the emergence of freshman pitcher Cassidy Curd, who has developed into a bonafide ace down the stretch. The Port St. Lucie, Fla., native is 16-1 in her first campaign in Durham, racking up 136 strikeouts during the regular season. Curd’s dominance was on full display in the ACC tournament, as she tossed a no-hitter in the semifinals against a tough Clemson team. Curd’s counterpart on the mound is junior Jala Wright, a consistent presence sporting a 2.49 ERA. The Blue Devils will need both of their starters to keep up their excellent performance to survive the grind of the NCAA tournament. 

As a No. 1-seed, Duke will host the regionals for the second time in its short program history, a major advantage for any program. The Durham regional also features George Mason, Campbell and Charlotte. The Blue Devils are familiar with the latter two programs, as they went a combined 3-0 against the 49ers and Camels this season. The postseason run will begin for head coach Marissa Young’s team Friday against George Mason.

If Duke is fortunate enough to escape its region, it will have the benefit as a top-8 seed of also hosting the super regionals. Duke’s region is paired with No. 9-seed Stanford’s, so a matchup with the Cardinal could await the Blue Devils next weekend in Durham. If they can capture the best-of-three series, they will reach their first ever College World Series, a major accomplishment for a program which has only been around for six years. 


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