Lubbock Super Regional BreakdownAnalysis
Duke (44-16) at No. 9 Texas Tech (42-17)
Lubbock Super Regional Schedule
Saturday: 3 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Sunday: 6 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Monday (if necessary): *4 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
How Duke Got Here: The Blue Devils garnered a preseason Top 25 ranking for the first time in program history, and they lived up to the billing. After going 18-11 in the ACC (their best conference record ever), the Blue Devils earned a No. 2 seed in the Athens Regional and promptly fell into the losers’ bracket with a listless performance in a 6-0 loss to Troy. In Saturday’s elimination game, Duke fell behind Campbell 8-1 after six innings — and then its offense came to life in a huge way. The Devils scored two runs in the seventh, two more in the eighth, then erupted for 11 runs in the ninth to keep their season alive. They came from behind three more times over the next two days to beat Troy and then knock off No. 8 national seed Georgia twice in a row on Monday, giving them their first regional championship since 1961.
How Texas Tech Got Here: The Red Raiders entered 2018 with lofty expectations, ranking No. 3 in the D1Baseball preseason Top 25. They lost first-team preseason All-America ace Steven Gingery to Tommy John surgery just one week into the season, kicking off an up-and-down season that culminated in a third-place finish in the Big 12. But they still hosted a regional thanks to a No. 10 RPI ranking and an 18-11 mark against the top 50, and they played great baseball in the Lubbock Regional, outscoring New Mexico State and Louisville (twice) 30-12 in a 3-0 run through the regional.
Starting Pitching: Texas Tech gets the edge here by default. All three of Duke’s weekend starters — Adam Laskey, Mitch Stallings and Ryan Day — have ERAs north of 5.00; the Duke pitching staff is built from the back forward, and Duke will be plenty satisfied to get five innings from any given starter before handing off to the bullpen. Texas Tech’s rotation has been inconsistent, but Davis Martin (7-5, 4.56), Caleb Kilian (9-1, 2.39), Ryan Shetter (5-0, 2.97) and John McMillon (5-3, 4.14) do have high-end stuff — it’s just a matter of command. Senior lefty Dylan Dusek is another starting option with loads of experience (he started the regional opener and went two innings). Tech could piggy-back Dusek and Shetter in the opener, with Kilian likely to start Game Two and Martin a strong bet for Game Three. The Texas Tech starters have underachieved relative to their talent, but they’re still safer bets than Duke’s starters. Edge: Texas Tech.
Bullpen: Texas Tech has no shortage of power arms in the bullpen, between Jose Quezada, Ty Harpenau, Caleb Freeman and the flame-throwing McMillon. But that unit has also struggled to throw strikes consistently. Duke, meanwhile, might have the best bullpen in college baseball, anchored by senior righties Jack Labosky (0.71 ERA, 10 SV) and Ethan DeCaster (6-0, 1.07, 5 SV). Graeme Stinson (4-1, 2.09, 92 strikeouts in 56 innings) can miss bats in clutch situations thanks to a 93-96 fastball from the left side and a wipeout power slider. Freshman righty Bryce Jarvis (5-1, 2.42, 61 K in 42.2 IP) also has big-time swing-and-miss ability thanks primarily to his devastating changeup. Matt Dockman and Bill Chillari give the Devils two more good options from the left side. Duke relies heavily upon its bullpen, and the unit never disappoints. Edge: Duke.
Offense: Duke has a very capable, very experienced lineup stuffed with seasoned upperclassmen, and it ranks fifth in the ACC and 45th nationally in scoring (6.7 runs per game). Second-round pick Griffin Conine (18 HR) is a huge power threat in the heart of the order, and third-rounder Jimmy Herron (.298/.416/.454) is an excellent catalyst atop the order, which has tough outs from top to bottom. The Devils also found their power stroke in the Athens Regional, hitting numerous big home runs during their run through the losers’ bracket — this is a very hot offense that might be able to hang with the Red Raiders in a slugfest. But Texas Tech is simply one of the very best offenses in the country, ranking second nationally in scoring (8.5 runs per game) and slugging (.511), seventh in batting, 12th in doubles, sixth in triples, ninth in homers per game, and seventh in walks. Josh Jung (.384/.490/.654, 12 HR) and Grant Little (.380/.480/.670, 12 HR) are two of college baseball’s premier offensive players, while Zach Rheams (16 HR), Cameron Warren (10 HR) and Michael Davis (11 HR) also provide serious thump. Freshman Gabe Holt (.340/.436/.480) is a big-time catalyst who has stolen 28 bases in 28 tries. Eight Texas Tech regulars are hitting .290 or better on the season. Good luck catching your breath against this offense. Edge: Texas Tech.
Defense: Duke is an elite defensive club, ranking seventh in the nation with a .981 fielding percentage, compared with Texas Tech’s .971 (127th nationally). Chris Proctor is a premier defender behind the plate, Zack Kone and Max Miller are rock-solid playmakers in the middle infield, and Labosky and Joey Loperfido are very good on the infield corners. Kennie Taylor is another standout in center field, and Herron is as good a left fielder as there is in college baseball, while Conine has big-time arm strength in right. This is a special defensive club, with no weakness anywhere on the diamond. Edge: Duke.
Experience/Intangibles: Eight of Duke’s nine everyday players are upperclassmen, and they gained postseason experience with a regional appearance in 2016 — the program’s first since 1961. But Duke also hasn’t advanced past the regional round since the Kennedy administration, and the Devils are in for a bit of a culture shock playing in rowdy Dan Law Field — though it’s worth noting that Duke did sweep a pair of games this year at Florida State’s Dick Howser Stadium, which boasts a good atmosphere and a similarly hitter-friendly setting. Most of Texas Tech’s lineup wasn’t around for its 2016 Omaha run, but several key holdovers remain, led by shortstop Michael Davis and Martin. Most of the lineup is back from the 2017 regional hosting team, however, and the Red Raiders are exceptionally tough to beat at home, where they are 26-5 this year. Edge: Texas Tech.