2019 Preseason Top 25 Preview: No. 22 Duke

Image credit: Michael Rothenberg (Photo by Carl Kline)

Last Year: 45-18 (18-11 ACC); reached super regionals.
Final Ranking: No. 10.
Head Coach (record at school): Chris Pollard (198-146, six years).
Top 100 Draft Prospects: LHP Graeme Stinson (No. 9), LHP Adam Laskey (No. 61).

The Good News: Duke’s pitching depth should be outstanding once again, just as it was a season ago when they rode its arms to the deciding third game of the Lubbock Super Regional. Lefthanders Graeme Stinson, Adam Laskey, Bill Chillari and Matt Dockman, as well as righthanders Bryce Jarvis and Matt Mervis, were all big parts of last year’s success. Then there’s redshirt junior righthander Al Pesto, who lost a couple of seasons due to injury but was a key piece to the bullpen in 2016 and grad transfer Ben Gross, a righthander who served as a weekend starter at Princeton the last two seasons and last year was drafted by the Astros. Talented freshmen, like Graeme’s younger brother Cooper Stinson, will undoubtedly push for innings, but those may be hard to come by with the experience on this staff.

The Bad News: Six of the top eight hitters from last year are gone, which not only leaves significant holes in the lineup, but also means that Duke will be breaking in new starters at catcher, first base, shortstop, third base, left field and right field. Technically, there will also be a new starter at second base, but that position will be manned by Joey Loperfido, who was a full-time starter at first base last season. Some of those positions will be filled by familiar faces, like sophomore Michael Rothenberg at catcher and Athens Regional MVP Chris Crabtree at first base, but it’s asking a lot for those new starters to replace the production of the departed veterans.

Player To Know: Graeme Stinson, LHP.

After dominating as a reliever for much of the 2018 season, Stinson saved his best work for last by starting in the Lubbock Super Regional and throwing six shutout innings against a powerful Texas Tech offense. He was dominant over the summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and established himself as one of the premier college pitchers in the draft class. Now, he’ll go into the 2019 season as Duke’s Friday starter. With his performance against the Red Raiders leaving a lasting impression, a fastball that runs into the upper 90s and a plus slider, it’s easy to see why scouts like him so much. But he’ll have to prove he can handle a starter’s load this spring.

Path To Omaha: The Blue Devils got to a super regional last year thanks in large part to how extraordinarily well they played defense, boasting a .981 fielding percentage that ranked among the top 10 in college baseball. Having so many new faces in the lineup is a concern from an offensive perspective, but for this team, it’s just as important that those guys pick up the baton from a defensive standpoint. It certainly feels like Duke’s path to Omaha is very similar to the one that nearly got it there last year. The Blue Devils will look to pitch well and catch just about everything that comes their way.

2019 Lineup


C Michael Rothenberg So. .253 .372 .385 2 17 81
1B Chris Crabtree So. .457 .548 .771 2 11 35
2B Joey Loperfido So. .315 .408 .475 6 43 219
3B Tyler Wardwell So. .222 .364 .278 0 3 18
SS Ethan Murray Fr. (HS — Crozet, Va.)            
LF Kyle Gallagher Sr. (Transfer — Cornell)            
CF Kennie Taylor Sr. .283 .347 .461 6 36 219
RF Chase Cheek Jr. .158 .200 .211 0 3 19
DH Steve Mann So. .182 .400 .182 0 1 22
LHP Graeme Stinson Jr. 5 1 1.89 62 98 0
LHP Adam Laskey Jr. 6 4 5.47 75.2 61 0
RHP Bryce Jarvis So. 5 1 2.45 47.2 67 1
RP Bem Gross Sr. (Transfer — Princeton)            

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