After a couple days of preparation in College Station, No. 2-seed Texas A&M baseball makes the journey to West Virginia to face No. 3-seed Duke in the Morgantown Regional round on Friday.
“I think with our pitching staff we can beat anyone,” starting left-handed pitcher John Doxakis said. “I think we’ll have a good shot. At this point, we know what our pitching staff is capable of and we know what it takes to win ball games. I think that our pitching staff is just ready for another opportunity to do that again.”
This NCAA Tournament appearance will be the 13th consecutive season for the Aggies and only the eighth appearance in program history for Duke.
In a press conference immediately after the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, A&M head coach Rob Childress said Doxakis would be the starter against Duke. The junior currently holds a 7-3 dueling record and a 1.84 ERA on the season.
Despite the successful pitching staff A&M enters the tournament with, the Aggie pitchers will more than likely not have very much run support behind them in Morgantown.
A&M's bats went cold in the last two games of the SEC Tournament, hitting .077 and .138, respectively. A&M also has the lowest overall batting average of any team in the Morgantown Regional.
Leadoff hitter Braden Shewmake said that although the offense has had its struggles, the Aggies still have a solid lineup.
“We know we have a solid lineup,” Shewmake said. “We haven’t proven it I don’t think this year, but if we recall back to the fall, we probably had one of the best falls since I’ve been here against what I think is the best pitching in the country. That just doesn’t leave forever. There’s a lot of runs saved up over the year that I think we’re about to put out there.”
The Aggies will want to score early, as Duke has a 9-18 record this season when opponents score first, and a 7-13 record when opponents score in the first inning.
Duke will be without it’s ace in Graeme Stinson, a lefty has sat out with a hamstring injury since mid-March. The junior is also listed as the 70th overall prospect of this year’s MLB draft.
Right-handed pitcher Ben Gross will likely make the start for the Blue Devils on Friday afternoon, who currently holds a 6-4 dueling record and a 4.41 ERA.
The double elimination matchup is also the first time either school has met on the diamond, although Duke has played the other two teams in the regional, No. 1-seed West Virginia and Fordham, 20 times. The winner of A&M-Duke will face the winner of West Virginia-Fordham on Saturday.
“We’ve used this last week to get our legs underneath us,” Childress said. “[Duke] has some physicality up and down the lineup, they’ll have three or hour left-handed hitters. The two, three, four and five [in the lineup] will turn some outfielders around. We’re just going to have to be great on the mound, take care of the ball defensively.”
A&M will face Duke at Monongalia County Ballpark on Friday for the first game of the Morgantown Regional. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN 2.