Category Archives: Baseball

2009 ACC Baseball Championships Coming to Durham

ACC Commissioner John Swofford announced Wednesday that the 2009 ACC Championships will be held at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in downtown Durham from May 20-24.

It will be the fourth time the 10,000-seat stadium will host the event—DBAP also hosted the ACCs in 1996, 1998 and 1999—and the sixth time the tournament will be held in Durham. The tournament was originally slated to be held in Fenway Park, but an in-house scheduling error pushed its hosting back to 2010.

“We are very excited to reach an agreement with the Durham Bulls Athletic Park to be the host site for the 2009 ACC Baseball Championship,” Swofford said in a release. “We feel fortunate to know that our teams will compete for an ACC Title in a top-rate stadium that is regarded as one of the best in all of minor league baseball.”

In semi-related news, the Bulls play for the Governor’s Cup, the International League Championship, against the Scranton W-B Yankees starting this Thursday at home. First pitch at 7:05.

by Meredith Shiner

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Duke Signee Taken in the 24th Round

Although no other players on Duke’s roster had their names called after Nate Freiman was tabbed in the 28th round of the MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers, a pick a few rounds earlier could have future implications for the Duke baseball program.

Four rounds earlier, incoming freshman signee Brian Litwin was selected as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ pick in the 24th round (#714 overall). The 6-foot-2, 185 lb. OF/3B from Hickory, NC was ranked 90th in the country according to a Baseball America list of the Top 100 college commitments. A BA report from November 2007 describes Litwin as “a projectable, athletic outfielder with good bat speed,” and says that he is interested in improving the bottom-of-the-ACC reputation of Duke Baseball that has prevailed in recent years.

“The academic side of it was a big part of it, and the coaching was another big part,” Litwin said. “I just thought it was a place where I would improve as a baseball player. I want to be part of building the program.

If Litwin spurns the Pirates and decides to enroll at Duke, he will become the third current Blue Devil to be drafted out of high school. Senior OF Tim Sherlock was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2005 MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, while sophomore OF/RHP Grant Monroe was tabbed in the 38th round in 2007 by the Chicago White Sox.

-by Will Flaherty

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Freiman Selected In 28th Round

Junior first baseman Nate Freiman was selected with the 843rd overall pick by the Texas Rangers Friday in the MLB Draft.

It seems unlikely that Freiman will leave school, considering he still has a year of eligibility, but we’ll work on getting that confirmed. He said in a May interview that he “loves school and expects to be back next year.” Freiman was likely selected so low because of signability issues, as he was almost a sure thing to return to Duke unless he was selected in an early round.

The slugger led Duke in almost every offensive category last season, including batting average, RBI and home runs, despite missing a sizable portion of the season due to injury.

Duke’s highest pick in the last 10 years was Larry Broadway, who went in the third round in 2002. Freiman was projected that high by one scouting organization.

–by Ben Cohen

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Freiman’s MLB Draft Prospects Look Bright

Despite a recent lack of widespread success on the diamond, Duke Baseball has a long track record of producing drafteable MLB Prospects. Last year, three Blue Devils were drafted, with center fielder Jimmy Gallagher leading the pack as a 7th round (239th overall) selection of the Chicago White Sox. The 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft, however, might see a Duke draftee have his name called in a much higher round.

A recent scouting report on the blog Saberscouting projects Duke junior first baseman Nate Freiman as a third-round pick in the upcoming MLB draft, which will be held June 5-6 in Orlando, Fla. Run by a pair of scouts employed by Major League teams, Saberscouting compares the 6-foot-8 Freiman to “Richie Sexson (with much better bat handling),” and describes him as a “polished hitting prospect” whose “great strength and approach could allow him to be a 40 home run type hitter.”

Freiman has been the offensive centerpiece for the Blue Devils over the past two seasons, each year leading the team in virtually each offensive category, from batting average RBI to home runs, and his shift this season from catcher to the team’s full-time first baseman allowed Freiman to have an excellent year at the plate in 2008, hitting .368/.428/.626 with team leading totals of 9 home runs and 43 RBI.

If drafted in the third  round or higher, Freiman would be the first Blue Devil selected that early since 2002, when OF Larry Broadway was drafted by the Montreal Expos. And before Broadway, the last Duke player to be drafted that high was current New York Mets reliever Scott Schoenweis, who was picked in the 3rd round in 1996.

But it’s no guarantee that Freiman would leave before his senior season if he were drafted this June, as the All-ACC Academic Team said recently in an article on GoDuke.com that he “loves school and expects to be back next year.” If a major league team came calling for Freiman in a high round however, the opportunity (and compensation) of a jump to the pros may be too good to pass up. Additionally, it is common for MLB teams to offer draftees contract clauses that will pay for the remainder of a signee’s college education, meaning that if he left early for a pro career, Freiman would likely have his college education taken care of if he ever wished to complete his degree.

If  he does return for his senior season, look for Freiman to reprise his role as Duke’s offensive anchor in a year when the Blue Devils will have legitimate postseason aspirations for the first time in many years.

-by Will Flaherty

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Baseball Misses ACC Tourney By 1/2 Game

Sean McNally’s squad needed to sweep this weekend’s three-game series against cellar-dweller Virginia Tech this weekend to make the ACC tournament for the first time in McNally’s three-year tenure. Instead, the Blue Devils took two of three and finished 1/2 game out of the conference’s top eight.

The full story from this weekend’s action and reactions from McNally and his players will run in Thursday’s The Chronicle, but here are a few things to remember about this season:

  • The team won 10 games in the ACC, probably the nation’s best baseball league, for the first time since 2001.
  • The team finished with a perfect 27-0 non-conference record for the first time in school history.
  • Against the two last place teams in each division, Boston College and Virginia Tech, Duke finished 2-4, and in the penultimate series of the year, the Blue Devils were swept by Wake Forest.
  • A controversial tie with Clemson on April 20 could have been avoided if Duke had held its 6-2, ninth-inning lead in the first place.

Our basic analysis: Duke played well enough to make the ACC tournament, of course. This is still a young team that returns all of its weekend starters and every one of its top hitters. With perhaps the best recruiting class in McNally’s career coming in next year, the Blue Devils should be ready to compete for not only a spot in the ACC tournament next year, but perhaps the NCAA tournament, as well. After all, had this year’s team simply won one more game–be it against the two worst teams in the league, Wake Forest, Clemson, or any other team–it would be heading down to Jacksonville right now instead of packing up the locker room.

–by Ben Cohen

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