Image credit: (Photo courtesy of Duke)
On this episode of the Baseball America College Podcast, Teddy Cahill and Joe Healy are joined by Duke coach Chris Pollard to discuss the 2018 Athens Regional final between his Blue Devils and the Georgia Bulldogs.
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Winning that final game in the Athens Regional was a breakthrough achievement for a Duke team that just two years prior made its first postseason appearance since 1961, but more memorable than that final game is the run that the Blue Devils made just to get to that point.
In the regional opener, Troy defeated Duke 6-0, which pushed the Blue Devils into an elimination game with Campbell the next day. In that game, they fell behind 8-1 before a lightning delay halted play in the sixth inning.
After the delay, Duke was a different team, not just in that game, but for the rest of the weekend. It came back to beat the Camels 16-8 on the strength of an 11-run ninth inning. The next day, it avenged the loss to Troy with a 15-6 win.
Just one loss away from being eliminated and going up against the host Bulldogs, it was still a tough hill to climb, but the Blue Devils climbed it, beating Georgia by scores of 8-5 and 8-4 to advance to the Lubbock Super Regional. They came one win short of Omaha in Lubbock, but it was an incredible postseason run nonetheless.
The next year, Duke came through the Morgantown Regional undefeated to advance to a second-straight super regional, this time against eventual national champion Vanderbilt. With three regional trips in four seasons and back-to-back super regional appearances, it’s clear that Duke is now a force in college baseball.
Among the topics discussed on this episode are:
- How well Bryce Jarvis pitched during the abbreviated 2020 season
- What attracted Pollard to the Duke job eight years ago, given its relative lack of success before he arrived
- The importance of getting to a regional in 2016 as a springboard into success in 2018
- The mindset of the team going into the lightning delay during the elimination game against Campbell
- What it says about lefthander Mitch Stallings that it hadn’t been the easiest year for him but he came out and pitched Duke to a super regional
- Griffin Conine’s regional performance as a microcosm of his entire season
- How Chris Crabtree put the team on his back with his offensive exploits that weekend
- How another super regional appearance in 2019 served to validate what the program had achieved prior to that