Duke baseball wins ACC Tournament

Duke’s players pour out of the dugout after the final out against Florida State, clinching an ACC Tournament crown for the Blue Devils. (Photo by Allie Lawhon/ACC)

CHARLOTTE — At the ACC Baseball Tournament hosted in Charlotte this past weekend, it was a North Carolina-based team that came away from Truist Field holding a championship trophy.

Out of four local schools in the event, it was the sixth-seeded Duke Blue Devils who notched the title, defeating fifth-seeded Florida State 16-4 in Sunday’s championship matchup for their second conference tourney championship in program history and first since 2021.

The Blue Devils (39-18) took out No. 10 Virginia Tech (32-22), No. 3 NC State (33-20) and No. 11 Miami (27-30) leading up to the championship win over the Seminoles; Duke now moves to a perfect 8-0 all-time in ACC Baseball Championship games played in the Queen City.

As the top seed in the tournament, North Carolina (42-13) was unexpectedly knocked out on Friday by eighth-seeded Wake Forest (38-20), who subsequently became the victim of FSU (42-15) in the semifinals on Saturday. The Tar Heels had won nine of their past ten games leading up to the 12th-inning 9-5 loss to the Demon Deacons.

Paired up with the Seminoles in the tournament title game, the sixth-seeded Blue Devils found themselves down 2-0 after one inning but soon fired back with five runs in what became a landslide performance emblematic of a team firing on all cylinders.

“I’m exceptionally proud of our team,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said after his team’s blowout victory. “I think we’ve shown incredible resilience. We’ve had a great year, but we had to battle the injury bug here a little bit down the stretch. Our guys have just been tough. They’ve been together and all of that was on display today and we played a really complete game. We played a really, really complete tournament and I’m just so proud to be a part of this program.”

Before the tournament started, Duke’s coach showed his team his ACC title ring from 2021, beckoning his players to win so that they could have one of their own.

He mentioned that he advised his roster to focus on its conference tournament at the moment, instead of looking ahead at the NCAA Tournament and questioning where the team might end up.

“I want you to have that experience too,” Pollard said he told the players. “I want you to be able to go out there and celebrate bringing a trophy back to your university. Guys embraced that we were in the moment all week. We never once talked about the NCAA Tournament. It was about this experience here and having the chance to compete for a championship.”

Duke junior outfielder Devin Obee was named the MVP of the 2024 ACC Tournament, finishing the day 2-for-4 with a grand slam in the top of the seventh inning as his home run turned a 10-4 game into a 14-4 game.

Along with Obee, the ACC All-Tournament Team contains five other local players: catcher Alex Stone (Duke), pitcher Charlie Beilenson (Duke), first baseman Nick Kurtz (Wake Forest), pitcher Chase Burns (Wake Forest) and outfielder Anthony Donofrio (UNC).

Announced as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Duke will now head to Norman, OK, and open against No. 3 UConn (32-23) in the Norman Regional on Friday. No. 1 Oklahoma (37-19) and No. 4 Oral Roberts are also in the regional.

While Duke was not included in this group, three of the 16 teams rewarded as top national seeds and regional hosts for the NCAA field are local: UNC, NC State, and then East Carolina (43-15) of the American Athletic Conference.

Becoming a regional host for the 13th time, No. 4 national seed and top regional seed UNC will host the Chapel Hill Regional, matching up with No. 4 LIU (33-23) while No. 2 LSU (40-21) and No. 3 Wofford (41-18) play each other.

Over at the Raleigh Regional, No. 10 national seed and top regional seed Wolfpack will host for the seventh time as it faces No. 4 Bryant (36-19) as No. 2 South Carolina (36-23) challenges No. 3 James Madison (34-23).

At the sixth Greenville Regional hosted by the No. 16 national seed Pirates, No. 2 ECU will play No. 4 Evansville (35-23), while No. 2 Wake Forest is set to face No. 3 VCU (37-21).

The double-elimination Regionals — containing 64 teams in total — are set between Friday and Monday, while 16 champions will advance to the Super Regional play the following weekend (June 7-9 or June 8-10). From that point, the eight teams that advance to the Men’s College World Series will begin play on June 14 in Omaha, NE.