No. 11 Hokies Softball Travels To No. 5 Duke For Critical ACC Series

The Hokies are on the road at Duke this weekend. (Jon Fleming)

The No. 11 Hokies travel to No. 5 Duke on Thursday for a critical ACC series. This weekend marks the halfway point of the season for the Blue Devils (26-3, 7-2 ACC) and league-leader Virginia Tech (25-5-1, 9-0).

The Hokies have swept three ACC series, and with the Blue Devils already dropping ACC games to Florida State and Louisville, Tech’s in the driver’s seat with a series win. They’re fresh off a two-game series with perennial power Alabama. Though they lost 1-0 on Friday night, they bounced back with an 8-3 win in eight innings on Saturday.

Because of Easter Sunday, the series is scheduled to begin on Thursday this week. Here is the scheduled game times and broadcast information:

Although Duke’s only had a softball team for seven years, it’s quickly become one of the best teams in the ACC. It’s won 44 or more games in each of the past three seasons, qualifying for the NCAA regionals the last three years and advancing to the super regionals the last two.

The Blue Devils were picked second in the ACC preseason poll and returned seven of their top eight hitters from last season, along with their top three pitchers. The returnees are led by 2023 NFCA All-American D’Auna Jennings, who was sixth in the country last year in batting average (.462) and hits (80). Cassidy Curd was a D1Softball All-American Freshman in 2023 after posting an 18-3 record with a 1.65 ERA and 159 strikeouts in 127 innings.

Sophomore Aminah Vega (.371 average, 119 total bases in 2023) also returns and was named a preseason All-American by Softball America. She joined Jennings, Curd and junior Ana Gold on the preseason All-ACC team.

Duke opened the season with a 3-0 loss to No. 1 Oklahoma but put together a 21-game winning streak that included 14 shutouts. That was broken with a 4-2 conference loss at No. 16 Florida State on March 16, but the Blue Devils won the series in Tallahassee by taking the third game in extra innings (9-5).

Most recently, Duke dropped a 2-1 game at Louisville on Saturday but won the series. It still has ACC road series remaining at Clemson and NC State, the latter of which is the final weekend of the season, and home series with North Carolina and Virginia.

On the other hand, Virginia Tech has swept ACC series with Notre Dame, Louisville and Pitt. It has a two-game lead over the second-place Blue Devils as a result.

Here are the current ACC standings:

The key to Duke’s success this season is its pitching staff. It’s second in the country in team ERA (1.12), shutouts (15) and opposing team batting average (.167). It’s a group that’s only surrendered 10 home runs, too.

Senior Jala Wright (11-0,0.55 ERA), who has 11 starts, has her ERA down to 0.55 after posting a mark of 2.51 last season. She’s struck out 77 hitters in 64 innings. USA Today called her “the best Duke athlete you aren’t talking about.” She held the Hokies to one run on three hits in a game in Blacksburg last season.

Left-hander Curd (4-2, 1.29 ERA) is second on the team in starts (10) and is following up on her awesome freshman season with 74 strikeouts in 48 ⅔ innings. Senior Lillie Walker (5-1, 0.93 ERA), another left-hander, has been used exclusively in a relief role this season. Graduate student Dani Drogemuller (4-0, 2.01 ERA) has six starts after transferring from Pitt.

While the Blue Devils seem to have a bit of an advantage in the circle, the Hokies hold the edge offensively. They’re fifth in the country in team batting average (.358) and scoring (8.29), fourth in slugging percentage (.658) and second in home runs per game (2.16).

On the other hand, Duke can put up runs as well. It’s averaging 7.10 runs per game and is hitting .338. In its two wins over FSU, it scored nine and 10 runs, respectively. However, in its recent series against Louisville, it scored just nine runs over three days and stranded 26 baserunners.

Senior Clara Davidson leads the team in hitting (.422), home runs (7) and RBI (32) this season and can usually be found in the leadoff or No. 2 spot in the lineup.

Although Jennings is not hitting at last year’s pace, she is still batting .396 and leads the Blue Devils with nine stolen bases. They have more speed than the other opponents that the Hokies have faced this year and will regularly bunt for base hits, which will challenge the Tech defense.

Here’s a comparison of the two teams’ hitters:

“This weekend will be another test for us,” Tech head coach Pete D’Amour told Tech Sideline. “Duke can pitch, hit and defend, but so can we. Our players have done an excellent job of playing catch, throwing strikes and controlling the strike zone offensively all season. We’ve proven that when we do those three things at a high level, we can play against anybody.”

Marissa Young has been at the helm of the Duke program since its inception in 2018 and has a career record of 239-100 (.705).

Here is the tale of the tape:

4 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Those win totals are not correct for the VT pitchers. They only add up to 18 and VT has won 25.

    1. Totally my fault. I grabbed the wrong VT Pitching spreadsheet from my master file.

      David just corrected it for me in the story.

      Thanks for catching it.

      Note this doesn’t include the fifth pitcher for each team so the total wins will still be off one for VT (Molly) and two for Duke

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