Durham Athletic Park is a great place to play, but even more importantly, this sign blows smoke out of its nose.
From here on out, every game in every series is going to be the most important game of the year. Quite the cliche, but for the first time since 2008, the Cavaliers find themselves struggling in ACC play and needing to play their way in to the NCAA tournament. Most prognosticators still have the Cavaliers in the tournament, but a few more wins instead of losses would be nice.
This weekend the boys travel down UVa's home away from home in Durham to take on the Blue Devils. The Hoos have never lost a game Durham Bulls Athletic Park, winning all 8 of their ACC tournament games and all three Duke games that have been held at the Triple-A Bulls stadium.
Furthermore, the Cavaliers have been quite successful under Coach O'Connor's tenure having won the last nine matchups between the two programs. Since taking over in Charlottesville, Oak and Co. have a 20-6 record against the Blue Devils and have only lost one series to Duke. Shockingly, that series loss came in 2008 in Durham (again, I don't think we beat anyone that year).
This year the Blue Devils have struggled a bit to say the least. They enter the weekend with a 14-24 record matched up with 6-12 record in the ACC. That impeccable record puts them in dead last in the Coastal division, but hey! they are a full game ahead of BC for dead last in the entire conference!
The Blue Devils might be the most intimidating teams in the ACC record-wise, but they have one of the top pitchers in the conference. Duke's Junior RHP Marcus Stroman will matchup against Branden Kline on Friday in what will likely be the best pitching matchups of the weekend. To put it kindly, Stroman has more strike outs than I did during my time at UVa with the ladies (boy, that was a lot. Let me tell you). 93 strike outs in 66 innings puts him at the top of the
conference NCAA for Ks. His next closest competitor in the ACC is GT's Carlos Rodon who is only EIGHTEEN behind him. Sadly for Stroman, he doesn't get much offensive help because his 2.05 ERA is also one of the tops in the league but he only has a 3-3 record (not sniffing the top of the conference).
Duke's other two weekend starters are a combined 7-8 with a 3.70 ERA. Fortunately, they don't strike out nearly as many batters and walk a good amount more. Couple that with the porous defense the Blue Devils have and you have a recipe for some runs.
At the dish, Duke is a bit better than their pitching counterparts, but not by much. They have a team .265 batting average and are lead by their Senior outfielder Will Piwnica-Worms. Similar to Ramsey at FSU, Piwnica-Worms has been around since Eppa Rixey and I would expect he will graduate after this year. Maybe? Worms has a .310 average on the year and is the team leader in HRs(3) and RBI (24). To be quite honest, the rest of their lineup is quite average. They don't strike out, walk, or steal an unfathomable amount. They average nine hits but only 4.36 runs per game.
If the Hoos can limit the Blue Devil's offense like they did the Tar Heels last weekend, they could have a successful weekend. UNC's pitching staff is one of the tops in the nation so hit and runs should be easier to come by against the Blue Devils. That said, walks and errors can not happen like they did last weekend either.
I predicted a series win last weekend because I was confident in the Hoo's offense and pitching staff. Last weekend and the Tuesday game against GW certainly did not help me keep that confidence. I am skeptical to pick the boys again this weekend (I also don't want to jinx them), but I am going to. UVa finally loses a game at the DBAP but takes the series two games to one.
The first game of the series is tonight at 6 with the final two games coming on Saturday in a doubleheader (rain in the forecast for Sunday). If you're in the Durham area I highly suggest going to a game because the DBAP is a great stadium and I am pretty sure there is going to be quite the UVa contingency out there. I will do my best to provide updates on twitter (@STLUVaBaseball), but a wedding I have to attend might not allow me to do so (The open bar might not allow me to do so either). As always, enjoy the weekend, cheer on the Cavaliers, and of course GO HOOS!