ACC Dispatches: Duke, Wake Arms ShineAt The Ballpark
DURHAM, N.C. — Thursday at the ACC tournament began with back-to-back games that have no bearing on who will advance to the semifinals — they are essentially exhibition games between a team trying to polish its postseason resumé (Duke in the first game, NC State in Game Two) and a team that will not reach the NCAA tourney and has already been eliminated from advancing in the ACC tourney (Wake Forest in Game One, Virginia in Game Two). It’s a strange dynamic created by the ACC’s two-year-old format, which features four pools of three teams apiece, with tie-breakers going to the highest-seeded teams.
Which isn’t to say Duke and Wake Forest had nothing to play for. The Demon Deacons wanted to finish their season on a high note — these guys are all competitors, after all — and give blue-chip arms Griffin Roberts and Rayne Supple a chance to make a final impression upon the huge horde of high-ranking scouts watching at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Blue Devils are in hot pursuit of a home regional, so they need every win they can get this week.
So for 13 innings over 4 hours, 25 minutes, Duke and Wake battled in the hot sun. They didn’t treat it like a meaningless scrimmage; Duke used all four of its big guns in the bullpen, getting eight combined innings of shutout relief from Graeme Stinson (3.1 IP), Ethan DeCaster (0.2 IP), Bryce Jarvis (3 IP) and Jack Labosky (1 IP). As usual, that stellar bullpen did the job, and Duke finally broke through in the 13th to win 6-2.
“I don’t know that in the absence of an opportunity to host that we would have pitched any of those guys,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said. “As much as we want to be playing on Saturday, our ultimate goal is to get to Omaha, and the best opportunity for us to do that is by playing baseball in Durham next week. We were careful to make sure that Ethan and Jack didn’t do anything to prevent them from throwing tomorrow, so both those guys will be live for us tomorrow and ready to extend.”