Beats' picks: Can Duke baseball take down Virginia in NCAA Super Regional and advance to College World Series?

Sophomore Alex Mooney swings during Duke's ACC tournament matchup against Miami.
Sophomore Alex Mooney swings during Duke's ACC tournament matchup against Miami.

On Friday, Duke heads to Virginia for a high-stakes Super Regional clash with the Cavaliers, hoping to advance to the College World Series for just the fourth time in its history. Before first pitch at noon, The Chronicle's beat writers offer predictions on how the Blue Devils will fare:

Micah Hurewitz: Duke in three games

Despite Duke rocketing up in April and slaying Virginia on the road twice in three games, the Blue Devils enter the Super Regional as a heavy underdog. Virginia boasts excellent bats in Kyle Teel and Jake Gelof and will more likely than not throw top arm Connelly Early, who Duke did not see back in April. However, Duke is riding the momentum of its historically dominant victory in the Regional title game Monday, has strong bats up and down the lineup and a bullpen that is not to be messed with. This series may consume just about all Duke has in the tank, but I see this one coming down to the final innings in a Sunday afternoon win-or-go-home duel — ultimately resulting in the Blue Devils heading to Omaha, Neb., for the first time in 62 years.

Dom Fenoglio: Duke in three games

Instead of the structure of the Blue Devils’ bullpen making head coach Chris Pollard’s management more difficult in the Regional, Duke’s array of arms allowed Pollard to keep teams guessing. Since the Super Regional will return to a more familiar structure, a three-game series, the team will feel even more comfortable and better equipped to handle each game. The Cavaliers, while they have faced the Blue Devils before, will have to prepare for at least three pitchers each day. From an offensive perspective, the impetus for success will be on the top of the order, specifically sophomore Alex Mooney and freshman Andrew Fischer. Both hitters, relative to their usual dominance, struggled at the plate in the Regional, hitting 3-for-16 and 1-for-15, respectively. They were bailed out from production in other spots down the lineup, but Duke will need its best bats in order to take down a formidable Virginia squad. I see Mooney bouncing back to have a huge weekend and freshman closer James Tallon helping secure two tight games.

Martin Heintzelman: Duke in three games

Not only did the Blue Devils prove that they have what it takes to go to Omaha with the blowout win against Coastal Carolina in the Regional, but they know how to beat an impressive Virginia squad that took down East Carolina twice in a row to advance. It is important to remember that the Blue Devils have run up the score on the Cavaliers before, racking up 17 runs in the first game of a regular-season series in which Duke took two of three and outscored Virginia by a combined margin of 26-18. That being said, the stars will need to perform. Mooney and Fischer both had bad weekends at the plate in Conway, and if they struggle yet again it will be difficult to come away with a win. But if the stars return to form and the bullpen continues to look like one of the most dominant in the country, then it is entirely possible that the Blue Devils will continue dancing in Nebraska.

Caleb Dudley: Virginia in three games

Although the Blue Devils seem to have regained the momentum they had prior to the finals break, I still think their season comes to an end this weekend in Charlottesville, Va. While Duke’s bullpen proved to be among the best in the country while down in Conway, S.C., the Cavaliers’ roster is one of, if not the most complete hitting team in the country. It certainly does not help that Virginia has seen every arm Duke has during the three-game series in the regular season. While Duke will take one game away, Virginia, led by superstar Teel and a solid pitching staff, will emerge from the Super Regional victorious.

Elliott Jarnot: Virginia in three games

The Blue Devils put on an impressive showing last weekend in Conway, winning a talented regional and grabbing victories in a variety of ways. Pitching coach Brady Kirkpatrick has turned an atypical group of arms into a dominant staff and Duke’s bats always seem to come alive when it matters most, just as they did in the Blue Devils’ series win in Charlottesville in late April. However, it’s very difficult to beat a team twice in a season, especially when that team is as loaded with talent as the Cavaliers are. Just one member of Virginia’s starting lineup in its regional championship game against East Carolina has a batting average under .290. I think the deep batting order will wear down Duke’s bullpen and the Cavaliers’ incredible pitching — which allowed just five runs throughout the Charlottesville Regional — will stifle the Blue Devil offense enough to win two of three games, sending Virginia to Omaha for the sixth time.

Micah Hurewitz

Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

Dom Fenoglio | Assistant Blue Zone editor

Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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