Michael Wenye Li / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

The Red's opponent doesn't get much easier this weekend, as it takes on Duke a week after being swept by Texas A&M.

March 2, 2018

Baseball Looks to Hit Reset Against Tough Duke Team

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Coming off of a three-game sweep at the hands of Texas A&M in College Station, Cornell baseball is hoping to rebound in Durham this weekend, in another matchup against one of the nation’s top teams.

Duke (6-2) is off to a strong start after being ranked 25th in the nation coming into the season by D1Baseball.com. After taking one of three on the road against SEC powerhouse Vanderbilt to open the season, Duke pulled off a home sweep of Bucknell, bookended by two wins against cross-town foe North Carolina Central.

Cornell (0-3) will hope to get its bats going after a frustrating season-opening series against Texas A&M. The Red’s offense mustered just one extra base hit and a .135 team batting average in three games against the Aggies.

On the mound, Cornell will hope to forget any pitching woes lingering from their 22-0 loss in game two of the Texas A&M series and instead build on game one in which they surrendered only three runs.

Last season saw Duke net its fourth straight 30-win season and an appearance in the ACC Championship semifinals. The bulk of the Blue Devils’ offense is returning for 2018. Juniors Griffin Conine and Jimmy Herron are both back after putting up impressive numbers in 2017. Herron led the team last year in batting average (.326), hits (74) and runs (53), while Conine led in slugging (.496), on-base percentage (.425), runs batted in (56) and home runs (13).

Despite the tough opening series, head coach Dan Pepicelli knows his team’s confidence hasn’t wavered.

“I think you had to come down [to Texas A&M] with some tough skin,” Pepicelli said after the A&M series. “I think we’ll handle [the sweep] and be fine, in a position to build from it.”

So far the Blue Devils have been clicking at the plate with strong performances from freshmen Michael Rothenberg and Joey Loperfido as well as solid numbers from Conine and fellow junior Zack Kone.

Duke’s pitching staff has also done its job, especially since the Vanderbilt series. Opponents have averaged just 2.4 runs against Blue Devil pitchers in their last five contests.

“[Duke] will be a big challenge too,” Pepicelli said. “It’s an ACC school [with] very good pitching.”

Game one of the three game series at Duke is slated for Friday at 4 p.m., followed by a 3 p.m. start Saturday and a 1 p.m. Sunday game.