X-Factor: Beilenson's closing performance key to Duke baseball's success in ACC tournament

Duke pitcher Charlie Beilenson at the season opener against Indiana.
Duke pitcher Charlie Beilenson at the season opener against Indiana.

As Duke baseball prepares for the ACC tournament, the Blue Zone examines an essential player that could make the difference:

Duke: Charlie Beilenson

As the Blue Devils prepare to close out the regular season before turning toward the ACC tournament next week, right-handed pitcher Charlie Beilenson has a chance to be the rock for a competitive squad with championship aspirations. Though he started the season on Duke’s pitching staff amidst a sea of highly-touted draft prospects and preseason All-Americans, Beilenson has managed to stand out thanks to his durability and proven toughness working out of a jam. Head coach Chris Pollard will undoubtedly turn to the star closer on multiple occasions as he looks to earn his second ACC tournament title.

The graduate student’s regular-season numbers have been stellar thus far — he has recorded a 1.89 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP over 52.1 innings on the bump. Beilenson’s work as a stopper has earned him 11 saves this season, tying him for fourth nationally and placing him just one shy of Duke’s single-season record. The Los Angeles native’s early success this year also earned him Perfect Game Third Team Midseason All-American honors and a spot on the Midseason Stopper of the Year Watch List. He is best described as a workhorse with a demonstrated ability to hit the rubber on consecutive days and throw for as many as his season-high of four innings.

Beilenson started the season on fire, picking up a save in his first eight appearances while allowing zero runs. This stretch included a pivotal four scoreless innings against then-No. 1 Wake Forest and 2.2 scoreless innings against then-No. 9 Clemson — all games in which the Blue Devils ultimately came out on top. 

However, Beilenson’s dominance wouldn’t last forever, as he faltered in Duke’s rubber match against the Tigers and sacrificed four runs, giving way to the team’s first series loss. The struggles continued when the closer gave up another four runs against N.C. State the following week, opening the door for a last-minute, seven-run comeback that left the Blue Devils with an upset loss. The point of continuity in Beilenson’s rough outings was evident: the long ball. All five of the home runs that the Brown transfer gave up came in just those two crushing outings. 

Limiting the opponents’ production on the long ball will be key for Beilenson in facing the slew of high-powered ACC bats that will step up to the plate during the tournament, though he has gotten back on track as of late. Since the loss at N.C. State, he has kept the ball inside the park and allowed only five runs over 32.2 innings while earning notable saves against ranked opponents Virginia Tech and East Carolina. Though his recent performances against Georgia Tech and North Carolina were spotty, he kept most of his 7.1 innings scoreless and only allowed three runs to slip through the cracks. 

Duke’s offensive production and starting rotation, though undeniably strong at times, have shown considerable inconsistency throughout the regular season. Hence, Beilenson’s high ceiling as a reliable stopper who can pitch in volume makes him an attractive pick as the team’s difference-maker throughout the tournament. If he can continue to post consistent and dominant performances like he has over the past month, the Blue Devils will be all the more equipped to make a deep run through the tournament of this season’s exceptionally strong ACC.


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